Stories about HIV

From Nashwa’s death to doctors spreading HIV, what is happening to Pakistan’s healthcare?

“Primum non nocere.”  (First, to do no harm) This is how I started a blog for the Express Tribune a few years ago. I wrote it then because I felt I had to speak out. A sweeper in Karachi had been rushed to a nearby hospital after he succumbed to noxious gases while trying to clear a sewer. The shocking bit was that the fasting doctor on duty refused to treat the critically ill sweeper covered in sewage water, claiming that doing so would have broken his fast. Interestingly, it is Ramazan again, so perhaps an apt time to remind my fellow healthcare ...

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What is so ‘filthy’ and ‘unnatural’ about reproductive sex, Pakistan?

A close friend of mine recently had an STI (sexually transmitted infection) scare. Despite being in excruciating pain, she was scared to ask her husband how she got the infection. After a few days of discomfort and suffering, she consulted a doctor who put her mind to rest by confirming that she had a yeast infection because of diabetes. But during this whole episode, I was surprised to find out how ignorant she was about sexual health. First, she was adamant that she couldn’t get an STI from her husband because he was absolutely fine, which is irrelevant and factually incorrect because some STIs ...

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Circumcision – a cultural norm or a religious duty?

Some stories leave one with a sense of anxiety. And for me, this was one such story. I got up uneasy after reading it, not really wanting to discuss it, but the writer in me just had to pick up a pen and paper. Should a four-year-old boy be circumcised if the parents have a different opinion on it? A recent case in Boca Raton, Florida, opened the debate on this matter. It makes an interesting case and raises the fundamental question about the rights of parents, and their prerogative to raise their children in their religious traditions. Parents have a right to ...

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12 and married

The small private clinic was echoing with mixed voices – those of ear-piercing shrills and loud excitement. Waiting to see my doctor, I realised the commotion in the maternity section with nurses rushing through a storm of women – aunts and grandmothers waiting on news of a baby child. Passing it on as regular routine at the clinic, I was alarmed when the doctor came out scolding the elderly woman in the group who was wailing, claiming the doctor did not do enough to save the child. The doctor told the waiting family, “The poor girl would have died in labour. She was ...

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India walking the talk with their first transgender news anchor

It is prime time bulletin on Lotus News, a satellite news channel in southern Indian town, Coimbatore. Dressed in a dark brown silk sari, 31-year-old Padmini Prakash is all set to read out the day’s headlines. In matching brown lipstick, vermilion in the parting of her hairline and a bunch of white jasmine tucked in her black curls, Padmini sports a professional charm. Her Tamil pronunciation is clear. Her intonation is perfectly timed. In less than two months, Padmini has become one of the most popular news anchors of the television channel.   But it wasn’t an easy journey for ...

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Red

This piece is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The air smelled of rich extravagance as her heart pounded in her chest and banged away like a hammer. Her eyes, heavy with kajal, glanced sideways as the butler came towards her to escort her upstairs. She smiled, stood up, hoping nobody would notice her trembling fingers, and walked upstairs. Unconsciously, her fingers rose to her lips and she started biting her finger nails to calm her nerves. The butler was moving ahead of her and she had to take long strides to keep up with him, while her ...

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I was told I was being deported but not that I had AIDS

After the polio vaccination restrictions placed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Pakistan, the country is likely to face another restriction in the future. This could be due to an increasing numbers of HIV positive patients in the country. The main reason behind this increase is the growing number of Pakistanis who are being deported back to their country because they are HIV positive. “It’s entirely my fault; I am the sole reason my wife and son are inflicted with this disease” These words were spoken by an ill-fated AIDS patient, Naveed, who was deported from Dubai in 2012 when he was ...

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Polio: Can Imran Khan help defeat the ugly villain in Pakistan’s story of survival?

On October 24, 2013 when I saw polio teams entering my colony – Musharraf Colony in Hayatabad – it was the first time I knew what they had come for. They had come to save lives. I ran home to tell my mother to get my little sister vaccinated. Polio – the villain It was only the night before that I had been peeping into one of the community halls where the elderly, adults and children from the colony had gathered because we were told that some goras (foreigners) were coming to deliver a talk. I had seen one of these lectures before but this time ...

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Pakistan’s got AIDS patients

Acquired Immune Deficiency System (Aids) is taboo in Pakistan. Every time the topic comes up, the general attitude is one of denial with people saying that Aids does not exist in Pakistan. How could it? This is an Islamic country, and the ‘illegal, immoral’ activities generally associated with HIV/Aids are just not a part of our social fabric. According to the National Aids Control Program, about 100,000 Pakistanis are living with Aids. This number is most likely an underestimate as most patients with HIV don’t even know they are infected. One is compelled to wonder where all these cases are coming from. Like ...

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Transgender: Of sense and sexuality

I talk about AIDS, sex and sexuality. Don’t look at me that way. I, too, belong to a religious conservative family. No, I am not a non-believer. No, I do not have AIDS. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I have morals. This issue has been taboo, cursed and frowned upon. It has been buried so deep, that it is almost impossible to even think about talking of. But I do. I conduct and facilitate workshops on  HIV/AIDS awareness. ————— This is the story of two people I met a couple of weeks ago. They both liked boys. They were both shy, and could not speak at ...

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