BERHAMPUR: Over 1,400 people have lost their lives due to AIDS in Ganjam district in the last 15 years.
By the end of October, 13,240 persons in the district were identified as HIV positive while 1,484 persons succumbed to AIDS between 2000 and 2015. Besides, 13,240 persons including 5,584 women were identified as HIV positive, as per the latest figures released by Odisha State AIDS Control Society (OSACS), the State-level nodal agency for fighting the disease. In the last 15 years, HIV tests were conducted on 5,59,425 persons in the district.
As per the reports of Aruna, a voluntary organisation working for prevention of AIDS, majority of PLWHA (People Living With HIV/AIDS) are from rural Ganjam. Large scale migration, ignorance, low female literacy, inadequate prevention activities, stigma and discrimination are the reasons behind the spread of AIDS.
Several projects to prevent HIV are operational in the district. Preventive measures like Targeted Intervention Project (TIP) with migrants from the State and those coming to the State, Female Sex Workers (FSWs) and Male having Sex with Male (MSMs) have been launched in Ganjam. Besides 17 migration-friendly information centres have been running. The situation, though, has not improved. Apparently, more than half of the AIDS affected people in the State are from Ganjam.
The district has 26 Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTCs) including a mobile ICTC, a 10-bed community care centre and a 50-bed child care home besides a home-based care and support project in Aska and Hinjili blocks. All the ICTCs provide prevention of parent to child transition training.
The Anti Retroviral Treatment Centre at MKCG Medical College, Berhampur provides various facilities including counselling, testing, CD4 Count Test, treatment/referral for opportunistic infections and medicines free of cost to the patients.
Though several welfare measures including BPL cards and monthly `300 to the patients under Madhubabu Pension Scheme have been made by the State Government, the patients are reluctant to avail the benefits due to social stigma.
Despite spending crores of rupees in spreading awareness about the killer disease, fear still prevails among doctors and paramedical staff attending HIV patients.
Social activists said Ganjam, one of the State’s poorest districts, has more number of children affected with AIDS and these young patients are often ostracised by their neighbours. “An HIV positive person is more open and friendly towards another HIV positive person rather than to a normal person,” said Loknath Mishra, director of ARUNA.