BAHAWALNAGAR    -   Citizens are concerned over the rapid rise in the number of AIDS cases with 24 cases reported recently in the district.

The Health Department has confirmed 15 prisoners in the district jail and nine citizens as having HIV on Monday.

Bahawalnagar Health Department had diagnosed 24 patients with AIDS during the last eight months. Out of these cases, 10 were discovered during the past two months.

District Officer Health Dr Waheed Afsar Bajwa said that 15 of the AIDS patients were prisoners at the Bahawalnagar District Jail, adding that nine citizens were also diagnosed with AIDS.

He said that those diagnosed with the disease were between the ages of 20 and 30 years and one patient out of the total 24 was a woman. The Nation has also acquired the list of the patients diagnosed with AIDS.

Dr Waheed said that the use of surgical instruments by quacks was the main reason behind these cases, adding that the frequent use of disposable syringes also caused infection. He said that on instructions of the Punjab government, measures were being taken to eradicate the disease.

Meanwhile, according to the jail sources, the prisoners diagnosed with AIDS were not separated from rest of the prisoners-a serious threat to the wellbeing of other inmates. Superintendent Jail Zubair Cheema, while talking to The Nation, refuted the presence of any prisoner diagnosed with AIDS.

He said that according to the results of blood sampling of prisoners, no prisoner was infected with AIDS. He, however, said that PCR and other tests were yet to be conducted for Hepatitis and AIDS.

He said that according to the notification of the Punjab government, prisoners were held separately until screening tests for Hepatitis and AIDS.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Health Department has not taken steps for the eradication of the spread of AIDS among inmates and citizens, and all their efforts are limited to the files only.

The increase in the number of AIDS cases has also not prompted the department to constitute a ward for patients.

CEO Health Dr Waseem told The Nation that no separate ward was established for AIDS patients because those diagnosed with HIV virus were at early stages of the disease and did not need to be hospitalised. He said that no patient had been identified so far who needed to be admitted to a hospital.

Citizens and social circles across the district have demanded that Health Secretary take notice of the lethargic attitude of the Health Department who are not taking measures to control the spread of

the disease.