Continued preventive programmes for AIDS must remain in place

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DHAKA, Sept 10, 2019 (BSS) – It was a sorry state of life for 23-year old
Mim, the elder daughter of a rickshaw puller, as the sudden death of her
father put her family in acute financial troubles. Rickshaw puller Rahim Mia,
who was the only bread earner for his six-member family living in city’s
Razarbagh area, met the tragic end of his life in a fatal road crash.

Mim’s mother was not also doing well as she was suffering from many
diseases including diabetes. Mim (not real name), facing a lot of hurdles and
anxiety, became fixated on the idea that her life would be better if only he
earned money to run her family. This idea prompted her to start working as a
domestic help at five houses. But her income did not suffice to meet her
family needs.

Mim, still struggling financially, met with a woman named Saleha. Posing to
be her rescuer, Saleha exploited Mim’s weakness and dragged her to work as a
sex-worker. Mim’s fight for acquiring financial solvency eventually consumed
her, she lost everything that actually matters in her life.

Raima, (not real name) 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, Raima was brought up by her paternal
uncle.

She had to work throughout the day in the family and in exchange for it,
she was given a little amount of food. Raima endured an inhuman torture for a
silly mistake and she often went to bed at night without food. Her days were
passing amidst hardships and one day she dared to come out of the house.

But Raima was so unfortunate that she was trapped by a fraud. He sold
Raima at a brothel in Mirpur after promising her to take to a relative’s
house. One day, police demolished the brothel and then hundreds of women like
Ayesha took 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, Raima
joined an HIV/AIDS Service Centre in cooperation with a local NGO.

She is now working to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, spread knowledge
about prevention, and reduce the stigma and discrimination faced by people
living with the disease.

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.

Raima said when she first got involved in this profession, she could not
know about the use of condoms. Though many males use the condoms, the number
of males, who do not want to use it, was high, she said.

“I didn’t create any pressure for using condoms and I myself could not
understand the risks involved,” she said.

She continued: “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.”

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

AIDS is a life threatening disease caused by the human immunodeficiency
virus or HIV and it stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection that attacks and destroys
the infection-fighting cells of the immune system.

To reduce the risk of HIV infection, experts suggested using condoms
correctly every time having sex, limiting one’s number of sexual partners and
not sharing injection drug equipment.

Continued effective preventive programmes must remain in place, particularly
for people who inject drugs and transgender people, the two at risk groups.

Stigma and discrimination remain significant barriers preventing key
affected populations and those at high risk of HIV transmission from
accessing treatment and vital healthcare services.

Awareness raising about its occurance and spread is very significant in
protecting the people from the epidemic.

Emphasis should be given on the widespread reach of information, education
and communication on HIVAIDS prevention.

AIDS has no cure, but people can still live a normal life. HIV infection is
not the end of life as infected persons can lead a healthy life for a long
time with appropriate medical care and support.

Many people living with HIV still have difficulty accessing services,
meaning its rapid pace.

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