NGOs should extend more cooperation to combat drug addiction

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DHAKA, June 7, 2019 (BSS) – Ayesha (not real name), 31, worked as a sex worker in different residential hotels in the capital from the age of only 15.

After losing her parents and lone brother in a tragic road accident, Ayesha was brought up by her grandmother for three years. But the demise of her grandmother pushed her life to an extreme disaster.

She had to work throughout the day in the family of her paternal uncle in exchange of a little amount of food. Ayesha endured an inhuman torture for a silly mistake and she often went to bed at night without food. Her days were passing in this way and one day she dared to come out of the house.

But Ayesha was so unfortunate that she was trapped by a fraud who introduced her as a “mamu”. He sold Ayesha at a brothel in Narayanganj after promising her to take to a relative’s house. After staying in the brothel, she was convinced that she has no way to go out of here. In the brothel, some people guarded her round-the-clock so that she cannot flee.

One day, police demolished the brothel and then hundreds of women like Ayesha came to the streets. Later, they started working in various hotels as sex workers through middlemen. After passing the days in this way till the age of 27, Ayesha joined an HIV/AIDS Service Centre in cooperation with a local NGO.

She is now working in the centre to make the female sex workers aware of the HIV/AIDS.

According to the government data, an AIDS patient was first detected in the country in 1989 and so far 6,455 such patients have been identified.

As many as 1,022 people so far died of AIDS and the estimated number of the people infected by HIV is 13,000. However, all of them could not be detected.

Till August last year, the government has provided antiretroviral therapy (ART) to 3,265 people.

Mainly male and female sex workers, the hijra (transgender) community and those who take drugs in vein are considered as the vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Some government and non-government organisations are working shoulder to shoulder with the AIDS patients and those vulnerable to the deadly disease.

According to a survey conducted by the government in 2015-2016, the number of sex workers in the country was 1,02,260 and the number of the people who take drugs through needle and syringe was 33,067.

Alongside the government, some NGOs are also delivering services to these sex workers and drug addicts.

Ayesha said when she first got involved in this profession; she could not know what the condom is. Though many males use the condoms, the number of males who do not want to use it , she said.

“I didn’t create any pressure for using condoms and I myself could not understand that whatever risk I was in,” she said.

She continued saying “Though I was not infected by HIV/AIDS, I suffered from many sexual diseases. I’m now doing fine after receiving treatment for a long time.”

Ayesha said she is now continuing to work on making the female sex workers aware so that they compel the males to use condoms during sex.

“I think that many males have now become aware about using condoms,” she said.

Ayesha thinks side by side with the government, the non-government organizations have to come forward further to this end.

“If we become conscious from our respective positions, various sexual diseases including HIV/AIDS will be reduced to a great extent,” she said.

Rahela Khatun is working with Ayesha. Though she is not a sex worker by profession, she feels the pain and sorrow of the sex workers.

She said almost all of the sex workers are suffering from various sexual diseases and its main reason is not using condoms.

Rahela, however, said the number of people using condoms is increasing day by day.

She said many males do not want to use condoms, and as a result, she thinks, the risk of infecting by sexual diseases still exists.

While visiting Proyash, an organisation providing services to the drug addicts, near Basabo Balur Math in the city, it was seen that some drug addicts are receiving services from there.

Of them, the 29-year-old Matin (not real name) infected by HIV Positive said he is taking drugs from the age of 21.

Though he first consumed cannabis and phensidyle syrup, he later started taking drugs in vein at the encouragement of his friends.

“There were such days that we some friends took drugs through a same syringe and I’m now infected by HIV,” he said.

Amin, who is giving services at the centre, said the number of people taking drugs in veins is rising day by day. In this case, the number of females is not less.

“Currently 40 drug addicts are taking services from our centre and 17 of them are females. And of the 17, nine persons took drugs in veins,” Amin added.

He thinks the government should be tougher in this regard and the non-government organizations should extend more cooperation.

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