Author: Rana Tassawar Ali, May 29 2014 - We want an AIDS-free Pakistan, and indeed everyone Pakistani wants an AIDS-free Pakistan. The HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), which causes and leads to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), is an incurable disease. In Pakistan, an estimated one hundred thousand people are infected with HIV. AIDS is a deadly disease and a serious threat for Pakistan, where more than 60 percent of the population does not know what HIV/AIDS is, what causes it, and how it is spread in society.

In the country, we have national and provincial AIDS control authorities, but they are controlled by an insufficient budget and a strong bureaucracy. The true dream of AIDS-Free Pakistan is to demand reality-based implementation. The more than one hundred thousand HIV-infected people are not figures; they are human being. They have spouses under extreme risk of getting HIV/AIDS; they have children without hope of a full life. The infected people having basic rights, including getting good access to health treatment and care.

The groups most infected with HIV/AIDS in Pakistan are IDUs (injecting drug users) and female and male sex workers. These groups face constant discrimination such as antinarcotics slogans, for example: using drugs is a curse. Thus, our general public understands that people who use drugs are a curse, as the state department declares. This debate is very old in Pakistan: whether drug use is a curse or people who are using drugs are the curse. I only know that people who are using drugs are Pakistani citizen - they have same rights. People who are suffering from HIV/AIDS have the same dream to live a long life, but the general public perception about them is very ugly.

The AIDS-free Pakistan dream is a possibility-based dream, and possibility without action is a nightmare. And Pakistan already faces many nightmares. So, until the state wakes up to act against AIDS, we will not be free of it. The AIDS-free Pakistan dream should be the dream of every politician, teacher, student and citizen of Pakistan. The AIDS-free dream will be achieved when we all fight against HIV/AIDS. This fighting plan needs every strategic mind working against HIV/AIDS and its causes. Our dream will be fulfilled when our hearts fill the gap between us and infected people with the same dream of an AIDS-free Pakistan.