The rise in the number of HIV/AIDS cases and recent deaths in Neemuch district, particularly in areas dominated by the Banchhara community, has raised several questions on the government health schemes and projects.
If the District AIDS Control Committee (DACC) records are to go with then the district is getting at least 100 new patients in the area every year.
The condition becomes especially serious as many female members of the community are sex workers, which is their traditional way for earning livelihood.
In the last two years 56 people, including 25 in 2013-14 and 31 in 2014-15, died of AIDS, while 103 new HIV positive patients, including 42 pregnant women and 61 children, have been detected during the period in the district.
Between 2005 and 2015, a total of 839 people, including 461 men and 336 women, besides 42 pregnant women, have been tested positive for HIV/AIDS from 36,000 people who had been tested.
DACC nodal officer Dr NK Goyal admitted that there was rise in the disease in the area, but added that department provided treatment to up to 70% people infected with HIV in the district. “We are taking every possible measure to curb disease in the area,” Goyal said, adding that in many cases HIV/AIDS was transmitted to children from their mothers.
President of Neemuch Network of Peoples Living with HIV-AIDS society, a group which is working for the eradication of the disease in the area, said the reason behind spurt in the cases of AIDS/HIV in the district was unsafe sexual activities in the villages dominated by the Banchhara community and remote areas in the district.
“Even though the dreaded disease is spreading its tentacles and on an average 100 new patients surfacing every year, no one from health department (is) ready to listen (to) our grievances.
Officials associated with DACC hardly move out of their offices or go to remote areas to create awareness among villagers,” president of the society, who is also a HIV infected, alleged. He said that the DACC members also did not have concrete information about how many people were infected with HIV/AIDS in the district.
Akash Chouhan, who is running NGO Usha Kiran, which is working for the uplift of Banchhara community, also claimed that the efforts being carried out by the DACC is “very marginal.”
Chouhan said in Neemuch district there were only 25 villages where large chunk of population belongs to the Banchhara community. At 19 villages out of the total prostitution is a social compulsion rather than an economic necessity.