Times of India
16 April 2010
By Kanchan Gogate
The latest NACO survey reveals that the state has registered the largest number of AIDS cases in the last three years. It’s spreading to rural areas. City NGOs feel that a lot of ground needs to be covered despite numerous ongoing campaigns
It is a cause of concern for one the most progressive states in the country. Maharashtra has registered the highest number of AIDS cases in the country in the last three years. The latest survey of National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has prepared a list of 49 high prevalence districts of which 14 are from Maharashtra. Lack of awareness, migrant population and mushrooming flesh trade are mentioned key factors behind the HIV/AIDS spread.
The study reveals that HIV is not only confined to high risk groups like sex workers but is slowly entering general population also spreading in rural parts. Districts like Latur, Jalgaon, Chandrapur and Sangli fall under NACO’s list of high prevalence districts.
However, experts say Pune that has successfully combated the disease and has no reason to worry. Awareness level in the city is good, asserts Dr Rajendra Bhamre, AIDS nodal officer, Pune Municipal Corporation. “The number of HIV positive cases has remarkably come down in Pune. The deaths have also reduced. We are working hard to combat it. We conduct awareness campaigns in slums and also in the red light area. We have 11 authorised testing centres of which six are run by the civic body while the rest are outsourced. Besides, good treatment is available at the government hospitals. We also take precautions that pregnant women do not pass it on to their children. NGOs have helped us create awareness. In Pune alone, there are 73 NGOs working for HIV awareness and 15 are with us,” Bhamre says.
Mushrooming flesh trade is a reason to worry. “We have centres in the red light area. But today, the business is entering other pockets. We can control it in the red light area but what can we do if it’s spreading all over? Thriving flesh trade has made it difficult to keep a tab yet we are trying our best,” Bhamre says.
What about rural areas? “Our job is confined to Pune city and I cannot comment about rural areas. But it’s spreading there due to migratory population that visits the red light area, gets infected and passes on the virus to their wives,” he says.
The state needs to cover a lot of ground, says Tejashri Sevekari of Saheli, a community organisation working in Budhwar Peth. “But people are coming forward for tests that is why, per – haps, we have registered the highest positive cases. In other states, there is no such awareness and people are not willing to get themselves tested. In many cases, it’s not detected so how can we make any conclusion? Yet a lot still remains to be done. Sex Education is must. It’s shocking to see youngsters at 15 and 16 visiting red light areas just out of curiosity. They are ready to take any risk and that’s serious,” she adds.
Though we feel we have done enough, it’s not up to the mark, says Meena Kulekar, volunteer with an NGO. “Why only red light areas are considered high risk ones? Why sex workers alone? Everyone is at risk. We are working in urban areas but go 10 kms off the city and things are pathetic. Many people don’t know what Condom is. We just conduct campaigns and raise slogans but how many people really talk about it openly?” she wants to know.
Women have no decision making power. “Even if a woman comes to know that her husband is HIV positive, can she make him use Condom? Where is the freedom for women? She is still a victim of male–dominated society. We need to do much more as there are many grey areas.
We shouldn’t be focusing merely in urban areas. Rural parts are also a matter of concern,” she concludes.
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