ISLAMABAD: Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar on Thursday informed the National Assembly that 8,074 AIDS/HIV cases were reported in the country during January 2016 to June 2017. During the question-answer session, she said that 503 AIDS/HIV cases were reported in the federal capital, 3,878 in Punjab, 2,521 in Sindh, 881 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 291 in Balochistan during the period. The minister said AIDS was considered a social stigma and patients avoided disclosing it. “The actual number of affected people is much higher,” she said. She said that a comprehensive campaign had been launched to raise awareness about the disease in collaboration with the private sector and non-government organisations. “Patients have now started to consult doctors and getting treatment,” she said. Commenting on a supplementary question, Saira termed dengue fever a catastrophe. “The Punjab and Sindh provinces have managed to overcome it to great extent with collaborative efforts,” she said. She said that the federal government had already offered to provide the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa all technical and surveillance support to tackle the dengue. “The federal government is even ready to arrange foreign assistance for the KP government to get rid of dengue mosquito. A surveillance team is being formed to stop seasonal diseases such as dengue fever,” she said. To a question, she said that after the stent scam, the ministry had set up the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) Registry to maintain real time data about stents. “Each and every stent carries a number. This helps end the supply of sub-standard stents,” she said. To a question about the action taken against the sale of spurious drugs, the minister said that DRAP, in collaboration with local authorities in various areas of the country, had conducted 5,000 raids and imposed millions of rupees in fines. “For the first time, drug courts awarded two major penalties of 15 and 10 years imprisonment to the elements involved in this heinous crime,” she said. From January 2015 to June 2017, she said, around 8,840 premises and shops were sealed for selling unregistered, illegal, spurious and counterfeit and drugs and committing other violations of DRAP Act, 2012 and the Drugs Act, 1976. She underlined the need to upgrade the drug courts by bringing salaries, perks and privileges of magistrates at a par with the judiciary. “This will enable them to perform in a more efficient manner,” she said. To a supplementary question, Saira said that 90 percent news items about sale of spurious drugs were incorrect and fabricated. “However, it is the responsibility of the district authorities to check the sale of spurious drugs and the practice of unqualified doctors,” she said. She said that the ministry had obtained the approval from the federal cabinet to set-up a Federal Health Commission for streamlining health-related issues. “Its draft would be shared with the Parliament soon,” she said. The minister said that the federal government was vigilant and taking steps to provide effective and quality medicines to the people and supporting the provincial government for eradicating spurious drugs. Published in Daily Times, September 15th 2017.