World Aids Day:Of denials, stigma and societal backlash

Srinagar, Nov 30:Nusrat (name changed) shuddered with fear every time her family talked about her marriage. She evaded the topic repeatedly till last year when her family got her married.

Her worst fears came true when she conceived. Nusrat’s anxiety stems from the fact that she is a HIV positive, which surprisingly, her husband or immediate family does not know.

 

“Despite our counseling and best efforts to persuade her into telling her immediate family members, she hasn’t revealed the secret. There are 99 percent chances that her husband too has acquired the disease and the threat equally looms over her baby,” said her doctor, wishing not to be named.

Similarly, a man in his early thirties, working outside the valley, deliberately concealed HIV positive status from his dentist, when the later prescribed him some tests before doing the filling treatment.

“His test reports revealed that he is HIV positive. To crosscheck the findings, I sent him to Anti Retro Therapy Centre (ARTC) at SMHS hospital along with our staffer. But he fled away realizing that his disease will no longer be a secret,” said his dentist.

Even as doctors, health practitioners and NGOs have launched massive awareness campaign across the globe for prevention of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), Kashmir barely moves beyond denial.

On this World AIDS Day, doctors, health practitioners and NGOs in Kashmir are trying to highlight how this denial puts patients and their families at a grave physical, financial and emotional risk.

Data of J&K State AIDS Control Society (JKSACS) accessed by The Kashmir Monitor reveals that a total of 5002 HIV positive patients have been registered in Jammu and Kashmir since 1991. 

“2756 patients are presently receiving treatment in J&K out of which 2,454 patients are from Jammu and 302 patients from Kashmir. 365 were reported HIV positive in 2018 and 187 were detected with the virus till September this year,” reveals the data

Around 1061 people have died due to AIDs in Jammu and Kashmir till date.

An official at JKSACS said that there are many hidden cases which go unreported as people show reluctance to come forward fearing societal backlash and stigma attached to the disease.

The official said that awareness plays an important role in preventing spread of the infection.

 However, he admitted that the awareness is a low key affair in J&K as compared to other regions in the country.

Director, AIDS Control Society, Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Rather asserted that the drug menace has attained alarming proportion in the union territory.

“While the use of drugs is a major reason for HIV transmission mainly in the Kashmir valley, female sex workers, truckers and labourers are the main transmitters in Jammu region. The other major causes for HIV are blood transfusion, unprotected sex and multi-person usage of needles,” he said.

Dr Mushtaq said this year’s theme on World AIDS day is “communities make the difference”. “We are planning to involve different communities/organisations besides inculcate among the general masses the gravity of the problem and the preventive measures to be taken,” he said

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About the Author

When the world fails to make sense, Hirra Azmat seeks solace in words. Both worlds, literary and the physical lend color to her journalism.

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