Living close to the mining sites brings its own set of health problems. And HIV is one of them.
“HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) is particularly prevalent in migrant work forces, such as miners. For, compared to the risks they take in mines, unprotected sex is viewed as a minor hazard,” said Enakshi Ganguly, co-director of HAQ: Centre for Children said.
According to a report on the impacts of mining on children, conducted by NGOs, HAQ: Centre for Children and Samata, there are reports of high level of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV, in mining communities across the world.
Health experts serving in the iron ore mining hub — from Noamundi in Jharkhand to Badbil in Orissa — corroborated the report.
“Although, there are no figures ... as a majority of the population is floating. But some HIV positive cases were found recently during blood donation camps,” said, Dr B.R.P. Rao, chief medical officer (mines), Tata Steel Hospital at Noamundi.
There are around 40 mines and 142 crusher units in the belt where around 10,000 truckers could be found on the roads round the clock. Doctors said this community is the main carriers of HIV.
Due to lack of awareness and bad roads, very few suspected cases visit the Antiretroviral Treatment Centre in Jamshedpur, said Dr Nakul Choudhary, centre head. He said 10 people were found recently to be living with HIV in the region.
Some social workers in the region said on condition of anonymity that due to the easy money floating around in this region, prostitution is rampant. “Sex workers from Kolkata often travel to Noamundi, Bada Jamada and Badbil by train for a day or two and return with good business.”
A recent Jharkhand AIDS Control Society report revealed that mine workers were especially prone to AIDS as displacement and quick money lured girls to the sex-trade.