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AIDS shadow looms over Bhilai plant

The Chhattisgarh government's AIDS Control Committee said the BSP, a flagship unit of state-run Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and located 30 km west of Raipur// , has 92 confirmed AIDS patients out of a total of 317 identified in the state.

"BSP tops the report with 92 confirmed cases followed by Durg with 55 cases and Rajnandgaon with 46," said R.K. Rajmani, chief of the AIDS Control Committee.

Raipur stands fifth in the tally with 28 cases.

The study found that 38 percent of the confirmed AIDS patients were in the age group of 30-39 years.

"AIDS is definitely becoming a big threat. Only awareness can help people to overcome it but it will take years for the government to bring rural areas and people living in the interiors under the AIDS awareness programme," Chhattisgarh Health Minister Krishnamurthy Bandhi told IANS.

The annual report gives the AIDS statistics in the state till the end of April 2006. It is based on blood samples collected at the 16 urban centres - Bhilai, Durg, Rajnandgaon, Bilaspur, Raipur, Janjgir, Korba, Dhamtari, Kanker, Jagdalpur, Surguja, Jashpur, Mahasamund, Raigarh, Koria and Kawardha.

According to the document, the state recorded 36 new confirmed cases of AIDS during the first four months of 2006 while the number of HIV positive cases went up to 1,161 from 940 cases reported in December 2005.

Raipur, with a population of about one million, topped the list of HIV positives at 453 followed by Durg (213) and Bilaspur (197).

The report does not touch upon the state's vast rural population.

About 80 percent of Chhattisgarh's 20 million people reside in rural areas and officials say the forested belt housing the largely illiterate tribal groups are vulnerable to AIDS because of the socially permitted promiscuity.

Chhattisgarh's rural areas lack basic health facilities such as primary health centers. The government is ye t to open a district hospital in the tribal Dantewada district.

Officials say a large number of unreported AIDS patients die every month in rural areas due to the poor health network and threat of violence by the Maoist rebels who are active in eight of the state's 16 districts.

In May, UNAIDS said there were an estimated 5.7 million Indians living with AIDS at the end of 2005, more than in any other country and ahead of South Africa's 5.5 million cases.


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