Number of HIV patients rises in Chattogram

  • Mintu Chowdhury, Chattogram Bureau, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2019-12-01 11:03:11 BdST

bdnews24

Chattogram is experiencing a rise in the number of HIV patients, most of whom are expatriate workers who returned from the Middle East, and their relatives, according to doctors.

The risk of contracting the virus has increased among Bangladeshis working abroad due to a lack of knowledge of the disease, led by insufficient counselling before their departure, experts say.

Their wives and children are also infected through them.

As many as 71 patients have been diagnosed HIV-positive in Chattogram so far this year, according to the Antiretroviral Therapy or ART Centre at the Chattogram Medical College Hospital.

They include 44 men, 18 women and nine children. In 11 months, 10 HIV patients, including five men, four women and a child, have died.

The new patients are among 421 HIV-positive people in Chattogram. As many as 326 patients underwent treatment at the CMCH’s ART Centre.

Last year, 45 people were diagnosed HIV-positive. They were among 879 across the country.

After the detection of the first AIDS patient in 1989, a total of 6,455 people have been afflicted with the virus. Among them, 1,072 have died so far, including 148 last year.

Doctor Sanjay Prasad Das, in-charge of the CMCH ART Centre, told bdnews24.com that a large portion of the HIV patients in Chattogram are expatriates who had lived in the Middle East.

“They contracted the virus through unsafe sexual relations or other reasons and carried it to Bangladesh. Their wives are getting affected through them,” he said.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It harms the patient’s immune system by destroying the white blood cells that fight infection. This puts the patient at risk for serious infections and certain cancers. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is the final stage of infection with HIV. 

“A child can be affected before birth or through breastfeeding,” Das said.

HIV is transmitted only through certain body fluids from a person who has the virus. These fluids are blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.

Professor AQM Serajul Islam, an HIV physician and former head of the CMCH’s dermatology department, said the number of expatriate HIV patients is high among those who take treatment privately.

“They engaged in risky sexual activities abroad as they become disconnected from their families for a long time. They contract the virus as they are unaware of safe sex practices,” he said.

Serajul believes the rate of HIV contraction among expatriate Bangladeshis can be cut through counselling before they go abroad.

He also recommended easing rules to let expatriate workers return to meet their families after a certain period.

The doctor said awareness about HIV and AIDS rose among the people in recent years while more affected patients were seeking treatment instead of hiding their ailment.