KARACHI: Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/Aids) is claiming more lives in Pakistan than ever, says a first-of-its-kind analysis of trend data from 188 countries released on Monday.
There has been an 11 per cent increase in mortality rates from HIV/Aids in Pakistan, according to the study that examines data from 2000 to 2013. However, it reports a decline in the death rates from tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in Pakistan since 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established to stop the spread of these diseases by 2015.
Published in The Lancet, the study Global, regional, and national incidence and mortality for HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria during 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 was conducted by an international consortium of researchers led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
“Working closely with our WHO office, Pakistan has prioritised tackling tuberculosis and malaria, and I think we are seeing what happens when you invest in improving the prompt diagnosis and treatment of these deadly diseases. Now, we need to make sure that HIV/Aids does not take more lives in Pakistan than it already has,” said Prof Zulfiqar Bhutta, founding director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University and co-director at the Centre for Global Child Health at The Hospital for Sick Children, and one of the study’s co-authors.
The AKU was also represented by Dr Mohammad Imran Nisar, senior instructor of the department of paediatrics and child health.
Globally, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis kill fewer people than they have in the past and the decline in new cases and deaths from these diseases have accelerated since 2000.
Worldwide, deaths from HIV/Aids declined at a rate of 1.5 per cent between 2000 and 2013, while tuberculosis deaths declined by 3.7pc.
Pakistan, however, is experiencing the opposite with HIV/Aids, according to the study.
“Increasingly, more people have died from HIV/Aids since 1990. From 2000 to 2013, the country averaged a 15 per cent annual increase in rates of new HIV/Aids infections, ultimately rising from less than 1 case per 100,000 to 6.7 per 100,000.
“Far more Pakistanis die from TB each year (nearly 37,500 were killed by TB in 2013), but the country’s ongoing progress in reducing TB mortality rates starkly contrasts with its burgeoning HIV/Aids burden,” the study says.
After adjusting for differences in population size and ages across time, researchers found that there were 277 cases of TB per 100,000 people in Pakistan for 2013. In terms of new cases, Pakistan recorded 151 TB cases per 100,000 that year.
Mortality rates from HIV/Aids in Pakistan (1.5 deaths per 100,000), according to the study, were higher than what was found in Afghanistan and Iran for 2013 (each were fewer than one death per 100,000) but remained lower than in India (6.6 deaths per 100,000).
TB death rates in Pakistan (32 deaths per 100,000) were lower than those in India (58 deaths per 100,000), but were much higher than the TB mortality rates in Iran for 2013 (2.8 deaths per 100,000).
“With progress in reducing HIV/Aids at the global level, success in particular countries and regions varied as their HIV epidemics peaked and declined at different times.
“The rise in the rates for HIV/Aids in Pakistan, at a time when most countries are recording progress against the disease, exemplifies this finding and underscores the need for action.
But since HIV/Aids still claims fewer lives in Pakistan than other infectious diseases, namely tuberculosis, the country may have the opportunity to halt its epidemic earlier than other places could in the past,” it says.
Earlier and more effective treatment, the study points out, has also helped shorten the duration of tuberculosis infections worldwide. However, the authors note that aging of the population will lead to higher numbers of cases and deaths. In both Pakistan and at the global level, the bulk of tuberculosis deaths tend to occur in older age groups.
The study also assessed trends in annual malaria cases and deaths throughout the world. From 2000 to 2013, Pakistan reduced its malaria mortality rates by an average of 4.6pc each year, recording 3,160 malaria deaths in 2013. Pakistan also had reductions, although less pronounced, in malaria cases, dropping 2.9pc annually between 2000 and 2013.
In comparison to many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where malaria claims tens of thousands lives each year (over 260,000 people died from malaria alone in Nigeria last year), malaria claims relatively fewer lives in Pakistan.
The global malaria epidemic peaked in the early 2000s, at 232 million cases in 2003 and 1.2 million deaths in 2004. There were 164.9 million malaria cases and 854,566 deaths due to malaria in 2013 worldwide.
Published in Dawn,