Monday, January 15, 2007

Bihar's HIV-positive people on AIDS awareness mission

A group of HIV-positive men and women in Bihar have embarked on a mission to create mass awareness about the deadly disease AIDS.

Fighting their fate, the members of Bihar Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS Society have shed their initial inhibitions and have launched a programme against the disease, which has about 5.7 million victims in the country.

"We have become victims of HIV/AIDS because we were ignorant. So, we are working among the people to create awareness about HIV/AIDS. There are poor people who do not know anything about AIDS," says Kailash Bhagat, a member of the society who discovered his HIV positive status around eight years ago.

The organisation, which claims to have 1,600 members, also regularly distributes condoms to hawkers, beggars and destitute, particularly in poorer neighbourhoods of capital Patna.

"We are distributing condoms because we don't want anyone else to become a victim of this disease," said Seema, the treasurer of the organization.

Official figures say the virus has affected 1,078 people of the 83-million population of Bihar, though it is contested by health workers, who say the figures are highly under-reported.

UNAIDS says Bihar is vulnerable to the disease due to poverty and large-scale migration from the state.

Ten percent of the world's HIV-positive population is in India, according to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a partnership that raises money to combat the deadliest global diseases.

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