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Jharkhand Village Shocked to Know About Its Huge HIV Positive Population

Fear gripped Vishnugarh village in Jharkhand's Hazaribagh District after over 100 people reportedly tested HIV positive.

The victims were those villagers, who had gone out of their village to nearby cities in search of work, only to return with the deadly virus.

The remote village fraught with poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and underdevelopment has been shocked into disbelief, after 35 AIDS deaths were reported in the last four years.

Experts say Vishnugarh's case is just the tip of an iceberg and that the HIV problem has assumed alarming proportions, despite awareness programmes.

Village elders were holding public meetings to create awareness about the deadly virus as worried locals were seen scampering to get themselves tested.

Having moved beyond traditionally high-risk groups such as homosexuals, commercial sex workers and drug users, the virus is spreading into families, infecting mothers and children.

The situation is alarming particularly because of the lack of awareness, as most people do not know that they have been infected, resulting in further spread of the disease.

Shuk Yadav a villager whose grandson tested positive blamed the village youths, who migrated to bigger cities in search of work and brought back the "city" disease to their homes.

"Many people from the village go to other cities in search of employment and return with the disease. We try to figure them out, but of no use. Over 35 people have died here in the last 4-5 years. But no treatment is available," he said.

Those who have survived death are now living a life of seclusion, due to social ostracisation.

"In remote villages here, whenever a case is reported, none of the authorities are informed. Even doctors do not care about the victims. Unemployment is the main reason behind the spread of this disease. The cases are not made public beca use of fear of social boycott," said Nand Kishore, a social worker.

Authorities have stepped in with medical assistance and are planning a slew of measures to educate people about HIV/AIDS, but officials say it will be long before a sense of responsibility is instilled in the region's extremely patriarchal society.

"Looking at the situation, one can say that number of HIV cases will rise in future. A lot of people work outside and they keep shifting their base. They come in contact with their relatives back home and transfer the virus. Even small children here have been infected," said Sunil Kumar, a counsellor.

In 2004, the World Bank warned that the disease would become the single largest cause of death in the world's second most populous country, unless there was a change in policy and progress made on prevention.

The UN has warned that nations are faced with a disaster, the devastating effects of which go much beyond our imagination, as social stigma and lackof information means that millions of cases are still unreported.


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