The Menace of AIDS: What to Do About It?
Will the modern civilization perish like Qaum-e-Lut, the nation of Prophet Lut (peace be upon him) or it will be able to salvage itself from the curse of HIV/AIDS? This poses a big question for according to WHO there is no country in the world that is completely out of danger of the explosion of HIV/AIDS.1
Worldwide AIDS has already killed 20 million people.2 More than 3.1 million people alone have died in 2005 from AIDS. HIV infected almost 5 million people globally in 2005 taking the number living with the virus to a record 40.3 million3 According to UNAIDS, HIV in the world attacks everyday 1400 male and female. 4 Newsweek in an article reported that the fastest growing HIV/AIDS rates in the world are in Russia, Ukraine and Estonia.5
Africa is the heart of the problem and South Africa is the epicenter where the number of affected persons is 5.3 million. According to UN estimates people who live with HIV/AIDS is 25 million in sub-Saharan Africa and 8.2 million in Asia.6 1500 dies in Asia everyday. 7
Massive prevalence of HIV/AIDS is observed in our neighboring countries including India, Myanmar, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.
China says it has 840,000 HIV/AIDS patients. With the disease having spread to all the provinces of China, according to UN some 10 million could be infected in China by 2010. 8
According to Indian Health Ministry source the total number of people having HIV-positive is 5.13 million i.e. officially Indian infection rate is 0.91 percent of the population. With this number of cases of HIV, India can become another Africa. 9 India has the second-highest number of HIV/AIDS patients after South Africa.
This being the world scenario, we must ponder how vulnerable Bangladesh is in view of the situation prevailing particularly in our neighborhood. What measures we must then take to secure our country from this menace?
The current ABC approach to contain AIDS (abstain, be faithful and use condom) has not proved very successful throughout the world. It is not enough that we talk occasionally about this deadly disease, but should launch an all out national campaign of prevention and education. Firm political will is needed to fight the epidemic.
Ninety five percent of all the people in the world who are HIV-positive donít know it.10 The media and the civil society, side by side with the government, have great role to play to create public awareness. If fight against HIVís sees success in East African countries like Bahamas why we in Bangladesh shall not be able to contain it before it takes a epidemic form? 11
In Bangladesh, according to the statistics provided by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare about 1500 people are living with HIV/AIDS.12 In December 2004 a total of 465 persons are found HIV-positive, while 44 died of AIDS so far. 13 However, according to the survey of WHO, UNAIDS, FHI the number of people infected by HIV virus is 7500 in Bangladesh and the rate of infection is below one per cent.14 AIDS infected persons in Bangladesh are mainly from launch, truck and bus drivers (total numbering 250,000) and the helpers, rickshaw pullers (total numbering 1.5 million), prostitutes of brothels and those using hotels and rest houses, drug users and persons frequently traveling abroad for business and other purposes. Illegal use of dispensable syringe and blood transfusion without HIV tests are greatly responsible for the spread of this deadly disease.
It is high time that the government of Bangladesh takes effective measures to control, if not eradicate, this disease. It appears from the deliberations of Life, a NGO, that about 45 percent school teachers in capital Dhaka have no clear knowledge about HIV/AIDS. Similarly, about 48 percent students and 54 percent guardians are totally ignorant of the nature of and antidote to the fatal disease. According to Life survey 49.2 percent teachers believe that AIDS is curable, 69.5 percent think HIV can be infected through touches, 50 percent denied blood transfusion as an important cause of HIV virus diffusion. Around 53 percent teachers thought that AIDS patients should be kept isolated. About 57 percent guardians believe that AIDS is curable, 61 percent think that blood transfusion is not the cause of HIV infection. 15
We must use the age-old traditional instruments like Jarigan, side by side with radio, television and print media, to create public awareness. More seminars and workshops should also be organized throughout the country both at public and private levels to raise the peoples understanding about HIV/AIDS. Textbooks should also be used to disseminate information as to the cause and effect of HIV/AIDS on individuals and the society. Moral and ethical learning and persuasion can play a great role to rectify and improve current state of affairs. Islamic scholars, mosque Imams and ulama should speak about the causes and effects of HIV/AIDS in the religious sermons. More emphasis should be given for imparting moral and ethical values, and education at all levels should contain texts emphasizing superiority of moral values and purity of family life. The government should also encourage marriage at appropriate age so that human natural desire and instinct can be channelized in lawful manner, which is possible when government can widen the base of employment opportunities and eradicate poverty. This is possible only when the government takes serious interest in implementing the goals of Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). The government and the NGOs should also construct low cost housing facilities in all major towns and cities of the country particularly in the industrial belts so that married couple can live together. All the means by which AIDS is transmitted Ė drug abuse, sexual promiscuity and homosexual acts Ė are forbidden in Islam and therefore people should not experiment with sex at all until they are married and avoid drugs completely. Not sharing needles is not enough. Donít take drugs at all should be the national slogan.
Last but not the least, we have reasons to be concerned about the spread of HIV/AIDS in India, which is our next-door neighbor. While, according to the Indian government the figure is 5.13 million, many experts believe this figure might have crossed the South African figure of 5.3 million.16 Some experts even put the figure at 8 million. The U.S. CIA has, however, forecast the number of people with HIV/AIDS in India could touch 20 million by 2010. 17
This being the Indian scene, Bangladesh as a neighbor has reasons to be alarmed for approximately 2000 Indian truck drivers enter Bangladesh daily, in addition to it is illegal entrance of Indians to Bangladesh territory. All the Indian states neighboring Bangladesh are highly affected by HIV/AIDS. A large number of people from Bangladesh also visit India for medical, business, tourism and other purposes.
It is high time that the government of Bangladesh advice its consulates in India to seek for proper health certificate from Indians before issuing visa. Our government should install HIV/AIDS virus testing machines in all entry points of Bangladesh to avert the spread of this deadly disease in Bangladesh.
1. Reuters from Kobey on 4.7. 2005, quoted in The New Nation on 5.7.2005.
2. Reuters from Bangkok on 13.7.2005, quoted in The New Nation on 14.7.2005.
3. Reuters from New Delhi on 22.11.2005, quoted in The New Nation on 23.11.2005.
4. The New Nation on 25.9.2005.
5. Quoted in The New Nation on 10.8.2005.
6. Reuters from Tokyo on 28.6.2005, quoted in The New Nation on 29.6.2005.
7. Reuters from Kobe on 4.7.2005, quoted in The New Nation on 5.7.2005.
8. Reuters from Beijing on 24. 10. 2005, quoted in The New Nation on 25. 10.2005.
9. AFP from New Delhi on 26.5.2005, quoted in The New Nation on 27.5.2005.
10. Newsweek, quoted in The New Nation on 10.8.2005.
11. AP from UN on 2.6.2005, quoted in The New Nation on 3.6.2005.
12. The New Nation on 25.9.2005.
13. The New Nation on 18.7.2005.
14. The Daily Jugantar on 27.11.2005
15. The New Nation on 18.7.2005
16. The New Nation on 23.10.2005.
Article prepared on 27 November 2005.