Housewives in Punjab lack awareness about HIV/AIDS which has exposed them to this deadly virus spread through sexual contact. A trend at the anti retroviral treatment centres (ART) in the region shows that out of every five patients, two are married women.
A community based study conducted in field practice area of rural health centre, Pohir, and Urban Health Centre (UHC), Kirti Nagar, Ludhiana, of the Department of Community Medicine and Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, shows that more than half of the population in rural and urban area was not aware of basic facts, for instance, if HIV and AIDS were synonymous.
Harjit Singh, senior medical officer at the ART centre in Jalandhar Civil Hospital said, "Housewives, especially those from the lower socio-economic strata, face a greater threat due to transmission of HIV/AIDS through sex. It is very important to educate them and make them aware of their rights so that they can avert this deadly threat."
The above mentioned study that was published in the International Journal of Research in Health Sciences on January 31, 2014, surveyed sample populations of 1,000 women from both rural and urban areas, who were interviewed to ascertain the level of awareness about HIV/AIDS among housewives.
A shocking revelation that came forward during the course of the study was that on the whole, 66% subjects in both rural and urban area had no knowledge about the causes of HIV/AIDS.
Many housewives who were interviewed during the course of the study believed that heterosexual sex within marriage was not responsible for the spread of the deadly virus.
A worker collecting data at the Jalandhar Civil Hospital said, "Most people visiting the ART centre are married women and what is worse is that more than 30% women come to know that they are HIV positive only during their pre-natal diagnosis."
Women interviewed during the course of the study were not aware of the signs and symptoms of AIDS. Around 88% respondents in rural areas and around 85.6% in urban areas thought that AIDS is a preventable disease.
The field officers of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in Punjab are of the opinion that there is a great threat of spread of HIV/AIDS among housewives as a large chunk of the population in the state is exposed to intravenous drug abuse and also has many people working in the transport sector.
Worldwide, the top three high risk groups for contracting HIV/AIDS are truck drivers, drug addicts and unprotected heterosexual partners.
Prevention and intervention strategies need to focus on Indian women whose self perception of HIV risk may be low, but whose risk is inextricably linked to the behaviour of their husbands.