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Unsafe Sex, HIV Infected Transfusion Spreading AIDS in Madhya Pradesh

Unsafe sex and transfusion of HIV-infected blood could push Madhya Pradesh from a low-AIDS prevalence state to moderate category, fear health experts. //

The number of AIDS-affected people in the state, according to latest figures, has risen from one in 1988 to 1,933 till October 2006.

While 53 percent of the cases have their genesis in unprotected sex, 23 percent were caused by transfusion of infected blood giving rise to fears of the state moving towards moderate category.

While states having less than one percent population inflicted with HIV/AIDS are said to be 'low prevalence', the moderate category is pegged at 23 percent.

The rise in the number of AIDS patients in the state is attributed to low awareness and an acute lack of infrastructure to tackle the disease and cash crunch, which have become the bane of the anti-AIDs drive in the state. Even the rural areas are not spared, studies say.

"While urbanisation, rapid industrialisation and changing mode of lifestyle were factors contributing to high prevalence in urban areas, traditional practice of selling sex by communities like Bedia, Banchhda and Sansi have added to the woes in rural areas," a survey says. "They have little or no knowledge of AIDS or its prevention. They don't even know what venereal diseases are."

"Since 'tradition' in these communities demands that the eldest daughter of the family has to go in for prostitution to look after the family until her marriage, they surrender themselves for as little as Rs.50 to Rs.100 without any demands for safe sex," says Rajiv Lochan, head of Shuruat, a voluntary organisation which toured the state to spread AIDS awareness.

These communities spread over 24 districts of the state - including Ratlam, Mandsaur, Neemuch, Morena, Shivpuri, Guna, Ujjain, Datia, Panna and Satna - operate in semi-urban areas which are mostly close to highways.

"Almost all the region
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