It's time to wear Red Ribbon
When her husband died last month, Jayanti (name changed) came to know that he was suffering from AIDS. Tests revealed that 30-year-old Jayanti and her three-month-old son, along with two other minor children were also HIV positive. The news spread across the village. Her family was ostracised by the society, even doctors refused to attend her only because she was HIV positive. Ostracism, humiliation and mistreatment at the hands of family members, community and the medical fraternity are increasing in Orissa. The lack of adequate medical care, treatment facilities and socio-economic support from families and the community has driven many patients to despair and suicide.
According to the UNAIDS report, 285 people have died of AIDS during the 2000-2005 period but activists say it is very difficult to get an accurate figure of AIDS-related deaths because AIDS is rarely given as the cause of death – unofficial estimates suggest a figure of 300 persons. Out of 21, 623 blood samples, 2306 cases referred to HIV positive and 467 cases were having AIDS virus. Among these cases, 68 per cent males and 32 per cent females are there. When we consider age group wise, the age group (25-39) years has a maximum number of cases. Ganjam district is witnessing an alarming rise in AIDS incidences and is likely to earn the dubious distinction of having the highest number HIV cases among all the districts in Orissa within the next few years. According to this report. AIDS had already claimed 151 lives in the district between 2000 and 2005, while the HIV positive cases rose to 960 during the same period. A report reveals that 11,357 persons visited the voluntary and confidential counseling and testing centers in medical hospitals in Berhampur during this period. Most HIV cases were reported from Polosara, Hinjili Digapahandi and Belguntha blocks.
Migration, low literacy, poverty, urbanization, injectable drug users, unsafe sex practices and ignorance about the transmission of the disease are major factors for the spread of the killer disease. Migration is the major culprit for the rising figures of HIV cases. Unofficial sources say that of the 10,00,000 Oriya migrant workers in different parts of the country. The situation worsened due to the colossal damage caused by the super cyclone in 1999 and the consequent severe droughts of 2000 followed by unpresented floods. One of the major destinations of migration is Surat. From 1975 onwards migration started towards Surat. The migrants work in textile industries and few also work in diamond polishing industries. From every corner of the state, people are migrating to Surat. Ganjam district is at the first place in the row. There are more than 600,000 Oriya migrant labourers working in Surat from Ganjam district alone out of 900,000 labourers from the state. At least 30 per cent of them are seasonal migrants and the others live in the slums of Surat around the year, in conditions that carry high risks of unsafe sex leading to HIV transmission. The medical community of Orissa confirms the alarming increase in AIDS among migrant workers. Brothles flourish as much as jobs and this is one reason why Surat is a sitting duck for an AIDS bomb. Surat is the only city in Gujarat with an organized "red-light" area. Large-scale proliferation of premarital promiscuity, multiple sexual partnership with commercial sex workers and high homosexuality are part of labor life here. The commercial sex workers are the AIDS carriers in Surat. The menace of AIDS is graver than usually understood since migrant workers return to their native places taking the risk across several hundred kilometers to their families.
Age Group Male Female
0-14 75 63
15-24 102 172
25-39 1079 441
40 + 310 46
If you study the above graph, the maximum number of HIV + ve cases found in the (25-39) year age group and this group is known as the major work of a family or a community. At the same time, they are the power of their family. Because of less opportunity, they are migrating to different parts of the country in search of job and come back carrying HIV virus. He is the parent bearer of the virus and his wife will be the first victim. And the trend goes like this. The next target will be the newborn baby. The small kids with the age group (0-14) years are innocents and unaware of the dreaded disease. The disease is blessed from their parents. In every age group, one can find that the infected male number is more than the female counter part. But in the age group (15-19) years, you can find a specific change. Here the number of females having HIV + ve is 172 as contrast to 102 males. The reason is more female in this age group are married and the virus is memorable gift from their husband. In the age group more than 40 years, 310 males and 46 females are infected with HIV positive virus. Now time has come to think about this rising figures of HIV positive cases. The disease really created a terror in every village of Orissa. If anyone is suffering from fever or cold, then the villager starts to draw a map where he was working through out his labor career. Any time in his struggle to fulfill the daily essential needs, he may migrate to other states and other parts of the state. If the patient has gone anywhere from his village, then without second thought they diagnose the case as AIDS. Then the count down starts, before any concrete report from the medical official, the villagers kill him by imposing unnecessary restrictions. The main issue is not to love or hate the people who are affected by the dreaded disease but to prevent the virus before it added some more victims to his group.
To prevent the HIV / AIDS in the country, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare instituted a National AIDS Committee in Year 1986, under the chairmanship of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare with representatives from various sectors. The committee was formed with a view to bring together various ministries, non-Government organizations and private institutions for effective co-ordination in implementing the program. In order to strengthen the program management, the State Government has established its own organizational organizations which include Orissa State AIDS Control Society, technical advisory committee and empowered committee as per the guidelines of the strategic plan.
Orissa State AIDS Control Society (OSACS) has undertaken targeted intervention programs in the state for highly vulnerable populations. Targeted intervention projects are now being run by the NGOs in several districts for commercial sex workers, truckers, migrant labourers, fisher folk community, jail inmates and slum women labor force. But lack of awareness among sexually active young people regarding the disease is the major roadblock against its spread. Reports have often attributed illiteracy and ignorance to the spurt in AIDS cases.
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Devi Prasad Mahapatra