The government for the first time ever will set up 20 health care facilities that will diagnose people for HIV/AIDS and provide treatment for the HIV positive patients for free, said a health ministry official at a discussion yesterday.
“Of the 20 facilities, five will provide both treatment and diagnosis services, while the rest will only diagnose people,” said Dr Hossain Sarwar Khan, line director of National AIDS/STD Programme (NASP) of the health ministry, at the discussion held at The Daily Star Centre in the capital.
The five facilities, named Care Support Treatment Centres, will be located at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and Infectious Diseases Hospital in Dhaka, Chittagong Medical College Hospital, Sylhet Medical College Hospital and Khulna Medical College Hospital.
The fifteen other centres will be set up across the rest of the country, said Dr Khan.
The NASP will set up the centres within a month or two with financial assistance from the World Bank, he said, adding that the centres would be set up at a time when 40 out of the 83 HIV testing centres run by NGOs with foreign funds would stop operating.
CARE Bangladesh and The Daily Star jointly organised the discussion on “Cross border Mobility and HIV Vulnerability”.
Medical and public health experts said although HIV is not prevalent among Bangladeshis, with less than 0.1 percent of people being infected with the virus, there is no place for complacency.
Abu Taher, team leader of a CARE project, Enhancing Mobile Population's Access to HIV&AIDS Services, Information and Support, said at least 1.8 percent of the 2,184 people in Satkhira and Jessore having a track record of trans-border movement in India were found to be HIV positive.
Citing 2012 data of International Organisation for Migration (IOM), he said among the reported HIV-positive people 60 percent were migrants.
Health Secretary MM Neazuddin termed these statistics alarming, and suggested launching immediate campaign for behavioural change of vulnerable population.
Shakirul Islam, a labour migration expert, said migrants left the country without any HIV orientation, but if they were diagnosed as HIV positive abroad they were deported immediately.
He further said even when they returned home, they were not tested due to an absence of a referral system.
Prof AKM Nurun Nabi, vice chancellor of Begum Rokeya University; Samir Kumar Hawlader of IOM; Leo Kenny, country representative of UNAIDS; Dr Jahangir Hossain, programme director (health) of CARE Bangladesh; Dr SZ Atiq, principal of Satkhira Medical College; Syed Saiful Haque of WARBE Development Foundation; Therese Blanchet of Drishti Research Centre; Mahtabul Hakim of UN Women; Dr Tarikul Ialam of Ad-din Welfare Centre; MS Mukti of Mukto Akash Bangladesh; Tajuddin of Unicef and Shahnoor Wahid, editor, special supplements of The Daily Star also spoke.