A HUMANITARIAN aid charity based in Greater Manchester has screened over 600 barbers, hairdressers and beauticians in Pakistan to raise aware of HIV and hepatitis.
Delivering sessions in Muzaffarabad, Human Appeal provided treatment to any individuals who were found to have been infected during the screening process.
The charity also distributed 50 sterilisation kits to further help fight the spread of the diseases.
The project, which took six months to complete, was aimed at barbers, hairdressers and beauticians due to the nature of how HIV and Hepatitis are transmitted.
Othman Moqbel, CEO of Human Appeal, explained: “As HIV and hepatitis are both spread by bodily fluids, use of unsterilised shaving and hair cutting equipment can spread these.
“If haircutting equipment or razors aren’t disinfected, there’s a danger that they become places where communities come to catch life-threatening illnesses.”
In Pakistan, one in ten people suffers from either Hepatitis B or C. The majority of people infected by Hepatitis tend to also be from the poorest section of Pakistani society.
HIV is less prevalent, with UNAIDS estimating that there were between 79,000-120,000 HIV cases in Pakistan. However, in major cities like Muzaffarabad, the rate of infection amongst drug users can be as a high as 50 per cent.
Mr Moqbel continued: “According to the World Health Organization, there are 10 million Pakistanis suffering from hepatitis. This is 10 million too many.
“There are 350 million Hepatitis B carriers worldwide and experts put the fast global increase down to ignorance and lack of preventive measures.
“By doing what we have done in Muzaffarabad, Human Appeal are doing our bit to combat this. But more needs to be done. A lot more.”
The CEO of Human Appeal, who are based in the Withington area of Greater Manchester, but have offices all around the UK and all around the globe, explained further.
“Like many developing countries, Pakistan faces elevated risk of HIV transmission, due to poverty, low literacy, gender-related discrimination and – what we have really been combatting over the past six months – ignorance about modes of transmission and the stigma that prohibits people from seeking screening or disclosing their HIV positive status.”
HIV and Hepatitis are blood-borne viruses and, because of their shared modes of transmission, adults who are at risk of HIV infection are also at risk of being infected by hepatitis.
Mr Moqbel added: “Separately, HIV and Hepatitis are destructive enough, but a person co-infected by both HIV and hepatitis is at higher risk of complications such as an increased risk of liver-related morbidity and mortality.
“Human Appeal are hoping to have empowered the people of Muzaffarabad to stop passing on infections, but to start passing on the disease-busting knowledge we shared with them and the stigma-busting attitudes we helped teach them.
“Human Appeal’s project communicated three key messages; prevention, diagnosis and treatment; or ‘get protected, get tested and get treated.’”