Migrant Workers, Poverty Fueling HIV in Densely Populated Indian State, Health Officials Say
Returning migrant workers and poverty are fueling the spread of HIV in the densely populated Indian state of Bihar, according to government and U.N. health officials, Reuters/Scotsman reports. According to Reuters/Scotsman, estimates of the number of migrant workers from Bihar range from two million to 10 million, and while the state is classified as "low prevalence," with 0.3% of adults, or 135,000 people, living with HIV/AIDS, eight of the 38 districts have reported a prevalence greater than 1%. Many migrant workers become HIV-positive by visiting commercial sex workers in cities such as Mumbai or Bangalore, and they then transmit the virus to their wives, Reuters/Scotsman reports. Denis Broun, UNAIDS India coordinator, said, "We need specific prevention campaigns aimed at migrants in Bihar and in the states where they work." According to Reuters/Scotsman, poverty also contributes to the spread of HIV in the state. About 42% of people in Bihar live under the official poverty line, compared with 26% nationally, Reuters/Scotsman reports. According to Bihar's health minister Chandra Mohan Rai, "It is poverty that is fuelling HIV" in the state. She added that the actual number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the state probably is higher than official estimates because of poor surveillance techniques and the stigma associated with the disease (Zaheer, Reuters/Scotsman, 12/18).
HIV/AIDS Awareness Could Be 'Social Vaccine,' Piot Says
HIV/AIDS awareness and knowledge in India could act as a "social vaccine," UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said on Saturday during a visit to Bihar, Xinhua/People's Daily reports. According to Piot, UNAIDS is concerned about the spread of HIV in Bihar, which is facilitated by high poverty, migration and a lack of HIV/AIDS awareness in the region. "Social [v]accine is the only weapon that can successfully fight the AIDS menace," Piot said, adding, "What I mean by [s]ocial [v]accine is launching a massive mass awareness campaign and educating the masses about how to protect themselves" (Xinhua/People's Daily, 12/16).