HIV infection rising among overseas workers

There is no cure yet for HIV, although antiretroviral (ARV) treatment can slow or retard the growth of the virus, meaning that people with HIV can live long and healthy lives. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Viruses) transmission rates are relatively low in Bangladesh compared to neighboring countries. However, the number of new infections is increasing now, especially with the infected expatriates who either return home to spend holidays or permanently return.

Women are at greater risk than anyone else. The Directorate of Health Services says a large proportion of newly identified Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients are migrant spouses or relatives. Due to various programs of the AIDS awareness programs, the infection rate is still below 0.1 in the country and the prevalence of infection among the high-risk groups like, the sex workers and intravenous drug users (IDUs) is under control.

According to the AIDS-STD Control programme of the Department of Health, there are 681 Bangladeshi and 160 Rohingya people affected by AIDS in 2018.
Health officials said, new HIV infections through migrants have increased. This has become a new challenge for the country. An official said, “Because it is relatively easy to diagnose AIDS sufferers who consume drugs, it is not possible for immigrants.”

People returning from abroad are scattered all over the country and they are difficult to trace out after returning. The number of those who go, where they are going, who are returning - is only known when they are testing for various diseases. “As of 2018, a third of the infected people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) are migrants. And 20 percent are housewives. In this situation, steps have been taken to raise awareness about HIV infection among the migrant population and necessary tests after being done on those who are returning home,” an official said.

According to the Health Directorate, the first person detected with HIV patient was identified in 1989 in Bangladesh. Since then, a total of 6,545 people has been identified in the country till October last year. Of them, 1,772 have died. It is estimated that the number of HIV-infected persons is over 13,000 in the country.

Dr Aminul Islam, Director of the Department of Health Directorate’s STD/HIVAIDS program said, “Many people were infected with HIV due lack of awareness about the infection. For this reason, workers traveling abroad should be given adequate health education before going abroad to be aware about AIDS.”

Professor Enayet Bhuiyan (WHO is Dr Bhuiyan, what is his designation, where does he represent????) said, “The number of new HIV-positive people among the migrants has increased over the past few years.” He said, “About 40 percent to 50 percent of the victims are returning home carrying the virus. Again, about 40 to 50 percent of the patients could not be identified.”

He suggested that, people have to know how to prevention HIV infection. HIV is spread only through transmission of body fluids from a person who has HIV. These fluids are blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. “Globally, HIV is spread mainly by having sex or sharing injection such as needles with someone who has HIV,” Professor Enayet underscored.

Migration researcher Imtiaz Ahmed talking to Bangladesh Post stressed on this matter to build up awareness before departure of the workers who travel abroad. He also mentioned strengthening the role of the media in educating the generation population about HIV infection.