The Express Tribune Editorial 2 December 2020
Coronavirus and AIDS
Economy, health and education are among the significant sectors that the long-persisting coronavirus pandemic has affected the most. On World AIDS Day, the United Nations has expressed dismay that the global efforts to fight AIDS/HIV have suffered a setback as the targets set for 2020 have widely been missed. Five years ago, the UN member states were optimistic about ending AIDS by 2030, but the present situation has dampened this optimism. According to the world body report, in 2019, AIDS killed 700,000 people worldwide and 1.7 million new HIV infections had been registered. It has described this situation unacceptable saying this has happened even when remedies and preventions from these diseases are affordable. The UN linked this anomaly to countries’ failure to make the required level of investment in the health sector and effect other necessary changes.
The report says the coronavirus pandemic has shown interconnectedness of countries, and hence the need for global cooperation in health, economy and other fields. It has urged greater cooperation among nations to combat AIDS/HIV in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic in view of the fact that those suffering from serious diseases are more vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus disease. UN member states had decided to bring down the new HIV infections to 500,000 among adults by 2020, a 75% reduction from 2010. By 2019, a mere 23% cut was achieved. The reduction rate, however, varies from country to country. The UN has called for better treatment facilities for children suffering from AIDS, as last year 320,000 children died of the disease worldwide.
Pakistan has performed unsatisfactorily against HIV/AIDS. In 2019, new HIV infections registered an increase of 74% — 69% male, 21% female and children comprising the rest. In Pakistan, 183,705 people are estimated to be living with HIV. Of these, 91% are in Punjab and Sindh. Karachi has the highest number of people infected with HIV followed by Faisalabad and Lahore.
PDM’s anti-government movement shifted up a gear in Multan — ahead of the plan. The 11-party alliance had planned to stage a public rally inside a cricket stadium in the City of Saints on Monday, but thanks to the government crackdown on the opposition workers and supporters, it turned out to be a bigger show of power observed all over the city. Multan’s was the fifth of a total of six public gatherings in build-up to a ‘long march’ to the federal capital designed to topple the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. While Lahore is to be the venue of the next political duel, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the PDM head, has announced nationwide protests on coming Friday and Sunday.
We are thus in the thick of a political battle — a battle that erupts periodically in our country. As if in a circular motion, we have come back to the same political pass we had crossed “triumphantly” only recently. There is a sense of déjà vu all over again. The game has resumed — after a break. Players on the two sides are the same, but their roles have reversed. Those on the attack then are to defend now — and vice versa. Both sides, however, claim to save democracy — one by marching against an “illegitimate and incompetent government” and the other by defending an “assault on the people’s mandate”.
Our political history is littered with such games — games that are played in the name of democracy and in the ‘interest’ of the nation. Political harmony is needed for the incumbents to focus on issues of core concern for the country and for the people like the economy, global diplomacy and security — both internal and external. But with the political scene dominated by protest demonstrations, rallies and sit-ins, the much-needed political calm has eluded the country during much of its existence. Even amid a surging pandemic, a bitter acrimony defines the relationship between the government and the opposition, though the onus to hand out an olive branch this time — even if only temporarily — lies with the latter.