Almost 1.8 percent of the people of two south-western districts who have a track record of illegal trans-border movement in India have been diagnosed HIV positive, finds a study. The percentage is way higher than the national average of Bangladesh.
A total of 2,146 males and females with symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) were diagnosed in Satkhira and Jessore between May 2012 and April 3 this year, said Prokriti Nokrek, technical coordinator (monitoring & evaluation and documentation) of Care Bangladesh, which conducted the study.
“Of those, 16 were diagnosed with Aids in Satkhira and 22 in Jessore -- two south-western districts of the country having borders with India. Six of them were children,”
said Nokrek at a workshop in the capital yesterday.
The study titled “Vulnerability to HIV & Aids: A social research on cross border mobile population from Bangladesh to India” was conducted under EMPHASIS, a regional project, involving Bangladesh, Nepal and India.
According to government statistics, till December 2013, 3,241 Bangladeshis were found HIV/AIDs positive, which is less than 0.1 percent of its population, whereas the HIV prevalence is 0.3 percent in India and 0.4 percent in Nepal.
“Though HIV prevalence in Bangladesh is low, its rate is higher among the mobile populations,” said Abu Taher, team leader of the project.
The National Aids and STD Programme Report-2006, Bangladesh, stated that approximately 67 percent of identified HIV-positive cases in the country are returnee migrant workers and their spouses.
Abu Taher said, “There is a growing concern that mobile populations are forming a bridge between Bangladesh and the high prevalence areas of India and Nepal”.
He said it is not possible to determine the number of total Bangladeshis, who had illegally migrated to India and returned home later.
However, many Bangladeshis from the bordering districts go to India for work on better wages, but some of them get engaged in risky sexual activities, he said.
Women go to India mainly to work as housemaids, but many are forced to brothels or dance bars, which may ultimately expose them to HIV infection, Taher added.
Mirza Manbira Sultana, regional research manager of EMPHASIS project, said though labour migration has become an important development agenda, it is causing major health risks as well.
“It is imperative that the authorities immediately intervene to reduce such health risks like HIV/Aids,” she said.