The way Mumbai handles HIV-AIDS fascinated Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Pakistans Population Welfare Minister, to such an extent on Sunday that she hopes to replicate some of the citys key projects, including that of installing Condom vending machines, once she returns home.
Dr Awan today toured Kamathipura, Mumbais largest red light district, and announced her interest in introducing the Condom vending machines that Mumbai had first installed in mid-2008.
In Pakistan, due to strong socio-cultural values, people still do not talk about sex and HIV in open. We cannot debate the way people in India do. Also the biggest hurdle is that we cannot ask for condoms at shops. Such machines placed strategically will ensure confidentiality and increase the usage of condoms, said Dr Awan, adding: We are now also trying to involve religious leaders as social mobilisers in creating awareness about these issues.
About health issues in Pakistan, Dr Awan said: The rising population and the corresponding rise in threat of HIV is a major problem, apart from infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, reproductive health, antenatal care and post natal care.
She said the biggest threat Pakistan faces is the spread of HIV is through blood transfusion without screening, apart from drug abuse. Blood transfused without screening is the biggest worry.
She expressed her desire of replicating the Indian model. We want to take back the best practices from India in contraceptive use. The way Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) targets and works with commercial sex workers is unique. In Pakistan also there are red light pocket areas in Karachi and Lahore, said Dr Awan who met commercial sex workers associated with the Asha Mahila Sanstha.