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Prostitution, main cause of spread of AIDS in Nepal

Out of a population of 26 million inhabitants, 70,000 people are affected by autoimmune deficiency, 2,000 of them children. 16% of the cases have contracted the virus through sexual relations with prostitutes, and 21% are wives or partners infected by their husbands or companions.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – In Nepal, there are about 30,000 women who prostitute themselves, and the scourge of sex for money involves 600,000 men, about one out of twenty inhabitants of the country.

These figures are the result of a study on the spread of HIV made public on the occasion of the world day against AIDS. The data that emerge reveal that the population of the newly formed republic has the highest exposure to HIV infection, by percentage, in all of Asia.

The survey, carried out by the HIV/Aids and STI Control Board (HASCB) and by the National Centre for Aids and Std Control (NCASC), estimates that, out of an overall population of more than 26 million inhabitants, there are 70,000 people affected by autoimmune deficiency, 2,000 of whom are children. 41% of the cases concern seasonal migrant workers, 16% contracted the virus through sexual relations with prostitutes, while 21% are wives or partners infected by their husbands or companions.

Deputy director of the HASCB, Sarad Onto, calls it “a silent emergency,” striking people following relations with HIV-positive partners who contracted the disease through drug use or use of prostitutes.

Rajiv Kafle, president of the National Association of People living with HIV/Aids, says that “It is high time the government legalized prostitution. It would help control the HIV epidemic through effective preventive measures.” Kafle affirms that prostitutes and their clients do not take precautions out of the fear that the police will discover contraceptives during systematic raids on the places where the Nepalese sex trade is conducted.

The national council on AIDS, established in 2001 and headed by the Nepalese prime minister, has so far held only one meeting, before the Maoist party of Prachandra came to power. The current prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, affirmed on the occasion of the world day against AIDS that “the government will mobilize all available resources in order to check the HIV epidemic and treat the HIV infected.”

Public health minister Girirajmani Pokhrel says that “the government has formulated the necessary policies and strategies, but they need to be implemented,” because there is still only a small number of centers and personnel working on the fight against AIDS.

The Catholic community in the country, on Sunday, November 30, dedicated special prayers for those infected with HIV, in conjunction with the worldwide observance, and reiterated its commitment to respond to what is considered a catastrophe in the country. In Nepal, more than 500 people in all age groups are assisted by Catholic centers spread around the country.

by Kalpit Parajuli

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