Banke, Nov. 7: HIV/AIDS has so far claimed a total of 99 lives in Banke district in mid-west Nepal. The District Public Health Office (DPHO) said that about 668 people are infected with HIV/AIDS.
As many as 487 men, 368 women and 13 third gender people have been found infected with HIV in Banke till the current fiscal year 2072/073.
“Of those infected, 389 people are taking Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) to treat HIV infection,” said Ram Prasad Chand, an HIV/AIDS focal person under the DPHO. ART is used to slow the rate at which the virus multiplies in the body and thus prolong life.
Although the number of people infected with HIV has been declining gradually over the years, new cases of HIV continue to emerge and are a source of worry to public health officials.
It is believed that people who visit India to work as manual workers tend to return home infected by the HIV virus. Thus, Banke district has become highly prone to the transmission of HIV.
According to the DPHO report, of the total number of people infected by HIV, majority of them are those who had visited India for work. They are known to buy sex while living there and then transmitting the disease to their spouses.
The DPHO has established a health desk at Jamunahama near the Nepal-India border to carry out surveillance of the workers while returning home from India.
“The health desk has been set up along the border in a bid to conduct health check-ups of those people returning from India and also to generate awareness about the disease,” said public health administrator of the DPHO, Khim Bahadur Khadka.
However, he admitted the health desk was not operating smoothly for lack of necessary budget. Established three years ago, the health desk has been trying to create awareness about the safety measures that needed to be taken against the disease and promote the use of condoms, Khadka said.
According to the DPHO report, the ratio of condom users in the district is, however, very low. Only about 5.04 per cent of the people in the district use condoms, the report said.
Superstition, lack of awareness and religious reasons have been blamed for the low use of the contraceptive in the district.
Very few people from the Muslim and Madhesi communities use a condom, said Chand.
There is a false notion about the use of condoms among them, therefore, mass awareness through intervention programmes is needed to increase their use, he said.
To increase the use of condoms, the DPHO has set up condom boxes in different areas of the district. And the District AIDS Coordination Committee has decided to ask the DPHO to set up a condom box in the toilets of all the government and non-governmental offices.