M A I N   N E W S

AIDS and Haryana
Shunned, they live in deathly silence
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Rohtak, November 26
Parsanni Devi (name changed) is like hundreds of women in Haryana who have been widowed, with their husbands succumbing to HIV/ AIDS. Yet she is more fortunate than most who remain untreated due to ignorance of their HIV-positive status or are forced to suffer in silence. This is especially true of women in rural areas, where a widow has no social acceptance.

Stories like these abound. Out of the 751 confirmed cases of AIDS in the state of Haryana, 605 happen to be male and 146 female. This shows that women comprise 19 per cent of the AIDS population in the state — almost double the national average — and that the health of women in the state is not considered as important as that of men . Neglected, they die in their homes untreated.

With symptoms of full-blown AIDS Parsanni Devi considers herself lucky despite the suffering because her son and daughter-in-law take time off from work to bring her for a monthly check-up at the Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) Centre at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences here. There are 37 women , mostly widows, under treatment here, though the latest sentinel surveillance to check HIV incidence in Haryana has indicated an alarming rise in numbers.

When Sitara’s (name changed) husband was diagnosed as HIV positive and Sitara herself fell ill, he threw her out, accusing her of infecting him. A month later, he remarried. Soon after he died and Sitara was blamed for it too. Today she is shunned by her village. “What wrong did I do?” asks a bewildered Sitara.

“My husband died of an undiagnosed illness. During a routine visit to a doctor, she suggested that I got myself tested. I went ahead. The report of my HIV-positive status shattered me. Now I draw respite from the fact that my illness has been diagnosed and I am getting whatever treatment is available. But I feel sorry for countless other women who have lost their spouses and are themselves suffering silently,” she says, her face veiled.

Dr Subhash Juneja, in charge, ART centre, says case studies suggest that there is a lot of promiscuity in rural areas and women admit to have had multiple partners. Though no sex worker has asked for treatment at the centre till date.

Out of the 267 HIV-positive patients registered at the centre here, 158 are men, 102 women and the rest children. Out of them, 121 have symptoms of AIDS.

Ms Meena, counsellor, Network of Positive People, a Gurgaon-based NGO, feels that thousands of men and women have died undiagnosed since the first case of HIV/AIDS was detected in India 20 years ago. The fact that over a hundred women, undergoing treatment at the state’s only HIV/AIDS treatment centre are mainly widows, shows the lack of importance given to women’s health.

According to Dr S.B Siwach, Head, Department of Medicine and nodal officer of the ART Centre, most women at the treatment centre come after their husbands have died and they suspect that their symptoms are similar to those experienced by their husbands.

The extent of the problem can be gauged from the fact that of the 45-odd people tested during the last week at the VCTC centre in the Microbiology Department, nearly half tested positive. Those detected are given a coded report and sent to the ART centre where they are counselled about changes in life as well as precautions to keep their families safe.

Mr Bhan Chand, a local resident, blames ignorance, illiteracy, stigma and male dominance in society as reasons for the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in the state. 



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