Meena (pseudonym), a transgender residing in Peshawar, faced a life-altering diagnosis of HIV a year ago when a persistent fever led her to the hospital. After various tests, including an HIV examination, yielded a positive result, she continued her ongoing treatment.

The origins of Meena’s infection remain unclear to her, speculating it may be a result of inadvertence. While she has never undergone surgery, her connections to friends in foreign countries raise questions about the possible sources.

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According to Meena, the predominant cause of HIV among transgenders is linked to their involvement in sex work due to societal job discrimination and limited opportunities: “Dance parties and programs are no longer safe; there’s no daily program, yet daily sustenance is a necessity. Family rejection forces us to seek refuge with our Gurus. Engaging in sex becomes a survival need, contributing to the higher prevalence of HIV among transgenders.”

What is HIV?

HIV, a virus compromising the immune system, progressively damages cells, elevating infection and cancer risks. In 2023, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported 815 new HIV cases.

Zopash Karamat from Lady Reading Hospital’s HIV Management Information Data System revealed 1,641 registered HIV patients, predominantly male, with women, transgenders, and children also affected. Migration and work in foreign countries contribute significantly to the spread of HIV.

Causes of HIV

Zopash Karamat outlined various modes of HIV transmission, including blood transfusion, unsafe sex, and sharing contaminated instruments like syringes. Drug use and transmission from an infected mother to a baby during pregnancy or breastfeeding are additional risk factors.

Symptoms of HIV

Common symptoms encompass fever, fatigue, sore throat, mouth sores, and severe muscle pain. Persistent symptoms warrant immediate consultation with a specialist.

Treatment of HIV

While there’s no cure for HIV, antiretroviral drugs (ART) help control it, offering a healthy life when used regularly. Early diagnosis significantly enhances the effectiveness of treatment. A dedicated ‘CBO’ (Community-Based Organization) for the transgender community at LRH streamlines processing and referrals for further treatment.

Subheading: Caution Emphasizing safe practices, Zopash Kiramat stresses protected sex, use of new or sterilized instruments during operations, mandatory HIV tests before blood transfusions, and minimizing needle sticks, advocating for caution to safeguard lives.