ISLAMABAD - The HIV community is subjected to blatant maltreatment, including exclusion from community gatherings and denial of medical facilities, while the persons suffering from HIV/AIDS are forced to change their residences and even their children are denied admission in educational institutions.

It was stated by a first of its kind research study conducted at the country level engaging community members by Association of People Living with HIV (APLHIV) in collaboration with The Global Fund and Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (APN+).

APLHIV Pakistan is a nationwide network of HIV community and key affected populations in the country. The study was focused on the “Access of HIV Community to Treatment, Care and Support Services.” A total of 525 respondents from within HIV community from across the country participated in the research.

The same research has been carried out in six other countries of Asia Pacific Region. In Pakistan 31 per cent females, 2 per cent transgender and 67 per cent males from urban and rural areas participated in the study.

Among the participants, 76 per cent depended on public health sector for HIV treatment. The figures on treatment literacy were alarming as only 11.25 per cent had some level of treatment literacy. The entire participants denied existence of any health insurance programme or mechanism. Asghar Satti, national coordinator APLHIV, told The Nation that study exposed the ill-treatment of HIV community in Pakistan. It revealed that 49.2 per cent of the participants were denied provision of medical services whereas 47.2 males and 49.4 per cent females were excluded from community gatherings due to their HIV status.

Some 40 per cent were forced to change the place of residence and children of 25 per cent were subjected to denial of admission in educational institutions. Lack of treatment literacy, transportation costs, time of being on anti-retroviral therapy (ART), therapeutic relationship between patient and provider, medication side effects, location of treatment sites and socio-economic status of the clients were revealed as the major causes of poor adherence to ART treatment.

The study held that improving adherence requires collaborating with the patient in an effort to understand and ameliorate individual impediments to adherence, generally by establishing dedicated time with every patient to educate, plan for adherence and maintain support throughout the course of treatment.

The study recommended institutionalisation of treatment literacy, addressing stigma in healthcare settings, decentralised ART management focusing more on interior areas of Sindh and Balochistan provinces, sustainable collaboration between public and private sectors, community involvement in HIV related issues and initiation of health insurance mechanisms.