Friday, June 14, 2024

More women now HIV-positive as men hide AIDS infection

More and more women are becoming HIV-positive or even infected with AIDS by their partners or husbands who have returned from work abroad and had unsafe sex with them. While these men hide their HIV-positive status from their women partners, this has increased the incidence of HIV vulnerability among the country’s population, experts say.
A recent visit to the state-run 14-bed AIDS ward at the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Mohakhali found all the beds of the ward occupied. A year ago, the average rate of occupancy at the AIDS ward was four or five patients.
Nurun Nahar (not her real name), mother of six sons and daughters, are now undergoing  treatment along with her husband Shahinur Islam (not his real name). Islam came back from Jeddah a year back and tested HIV-positive. Both of them were found to be HIV/AIDS patients last August.
“I was suffering from diarrhoea and fever during Ramadan and went from hospital to hospital for treatment at my home district Comilla,” Islam said.
“In a pathological test, doctors found me HIV-positive and immediately asked me to bring all my children and wife to test. Thanks to Allah, my sons and daughters are safe but my wife tested HIV-positive,” he added.
Nurun Nahar said: “My husband did not tell me about his disease and we had sex several times without any protection after his return from Jeddah. I didn’t know anything about this disease before…We are waiting for our last day.”
“If I had known about the disease, I would have taken appropriate precaution. No one has told me about it. But here in the hospital, I heard from a doctor that health professionals or village leaders are supposed to tell people about the disease,” she further said.
Twenty-four-year-old Subarna Saha (not her real name) and her five-year-old daughter were found waiting for a test in the hospital. She came with her husband Shidharth Banik (not his real name), who returned from Penang of Malaysia after working there for 13 years as a construction worker.
She got married to Banik who had been found HIV-positive seven years back and, obviously, didn’t disclose it to his would-be wife.
“It was an arranged marriage,” said Subarna Saha who was preparing her husband’s bed in the AIDS ward.
Doctors of the hospital said that most of the AIDS patients they had admitted were suffering from multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which made their suffering worse.
About 62 per cent children of HIV-positive parents were found positive while 75 per cent of HIV-positive males have returned from work abroad, said a doctor of the Infectious Diseases Hospital.
The HIV/AIDS Health Profile of Bangladesh, prepared by United States Agency International Development (UNAIDS) in 2010, reports that with less than 0.1 percent of the population estimated to be HIV positive, Bangladesh is a low-prevalence country.
The country faces a concentrated epidemic and its very low HIV prevalence rate is partly due to prevention efforts focusing on men who have sex with men (MSM), female sex workers, male sex workers (MSWs) and injecting drug users (IDUs), the report says.
A doctor of the hospital, seeking anonymity, told The Independent on Thursday: “People who have tested HIV-positive should disclose their status to their families so that their spouses can get proper treatment and help to stop further infection.”
Dr M Selimuzzaman, who has been working for long on HIV/AIDS, said: “People should be taught about infectious diseases, especially AIDS and HIV, before they go abroad for work.”
Any innocent men, women or victim can get legal assistance as per the human rights laws, but they hardly seek legal aid against those who have infected them with the disease, he said.
“We are working on the spouse’s right so that innocent women are not victimized,” said the physician. According to official Bangladeshi reports, 231 people were diagnosed with AIDS, while 37 of them died a year ago.
However, health minister Dr AFM Ruhal Haque noted that 343 people had tested HIV-positive last year and there were  850 AIDS patients in the country.
Overall, 2,088 cases of HIV and AIDS have been confirmed and reported against 1,745 cases in 2009, 1,495 in 2008 and 1,207 in 2007.
The number of undetected cases is believed to be much greater.

-With The Independent input

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