President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to control the spread of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) through the provision of testing and treatment services to AIDS victims. He said AIDS could be prevented and treated with meaningful engagement with vulnerable communities In his message on World AIDS Day, he said Pakistan was committed to providing quality health services to all citizens equally without any discrimination or stigmatization with an aim to build a stronger society and healthier country. “We also rededicate ourselves to further strengthen the HIV response at the national and provincial levels, support data-driven solutions, expand access to testing and treatment, ensure economic empowerment of the vulnerable section of society, and fight the stigma and discrimination attached to HIV diseases and its victims,” he said. President Alvi emphasized that by joining hands together with partners like UNAIDS, NGOs, and the private sector, new ways could be explored to address HIV and AIDS. He urged all stakeholders to thoroughly create awareness and provide counseling to the vulnerable segments to prevent the disease altogether and to diagnose it at an early stage to save precious lives. He prayed for those who lost their lives to AIDS and expressed solidarity and support to the bereaved family members. “On this day, we also reaffirm our support and provide assurances to the victims of AIDS that we will continue to work with all relevant stakeholders at all levels with the aim to halt new infections, treat those who are suffering from it with care and passion, without stigmatizing them, and to wipe out ADS from our country as many other countries have done successfully,” he said. Expert stresses for national strategic plan to create more awareness to control HIV/AIDS:The Expert on World AIDS Day stressed new national strategic plans and increasing awareness drives at the national level to tackle the disease as most people are still unaware of their infection or hiding it due to cultural taboos. WHO advisory group on Blood Regulation, Availability and Safety Prof. Hasan Abbas Zaheer talking to PTV news channel said that HIV continues to be a major global public health concern, having affected more than a million people worldwide. Nearly 250,000 people in the country are living with HIV-AIDS disease of which 50,000 were being diagnosed and the other 200.000 are still missing patients, he added. He also feared that if this epidemic was not controlled, the number of patients would rise to an alarming level. He said an advertising campaign to educate the masses is much needed through social and mainstream media. He explained the symptoms of the disease that HIV infection progressively weakens the immune system, and it can develop other signs and symptoms, such as swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, diarrhoea, and cough. Approximately 38 million people are currently living with HIV, and millions of people have died of AIDS-related causes since the beginning of the epidemic, he added. Replying to a question, he said HIV disease is treatable and HIV-positive test result is no longer a death sentence, adding, people living with HIV can live long healthy lives with the appropriate treatment and early-stage diagnosis. AIDS Day is an opportunity for public and private partners to spread awareness about the status of the plague and support progress in HIV/AIDS preclusion, treatment and care across the globe, he added. Replying to another question, he said that in Pakistan patients with HIV/AIDS can now get free medicines from government hospitals.