Migrant workers in Province 2 falling victim to HIV/AIDSFearing rejection and rebuke from society, most patients hide their ailments from family members, making matters worse
About a year ago, a 35-year-old man—who spoke with the Post only on the condition of anonymity—returned home from India with some savings and a big secret. He had contracted the HIV virus.
He underwent treatment at the Shukraraj Tropical & Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku, Kathmandu, but discontinued treatment and medications once he returned to his home district in Mahottari. He feared he would fall prey to the stigma attached with the lethal disease, and thus stopped taking medication to hide his disease from his family.
Last week, the patient suffered from chronic fever and diarrhea, and was admitted to the Janakpur Zonal Hospital. Only then did he let his family know that he was HIV positive. Like him, many HIV patients hide their ailments from family members and society fearing rebuke and rejection.
“His health is worsening by the day,” said Pravin Yadav of the hospital’s HIV/AIDS department. “We are giving our best but his state has not improved much.”
In Province 2, in 2018, a total of 6,422 people had been diagnosed with HIV. Among them, more than 2,000 people are currently on medication, according to Dr Pramod Yadav, health director of Province 2.
Yadav added that most of the patients are foreign employment returnees, like the 35-year-old who returned from India after he figured he was HIV positive.
“The condition is critical,” Yadav told the Post. “The economic standards of the families might have improved, as youths have been sending remittances into the country, but the rate at which the virus has spread is alarming.”
A total of 453 patients are taking medicines regularly at the Janakpur Zonal Hospital; over 1,000 in Narayani Regional Hospital; and around 700 in Rajbiraj Hospital. According to Yadav, most of the patients are between the age group of 20-35.
Nabin Mallik, programme director of Sparsha Nepal, an organisation working towards HIV/AIDS control, said the condition is “dangerous.”
“Most of the patients are illiterate,” Mallik said, “ and that means they are unaware of safe sex practices, and are negligent about treatment when they contract the disease—making matters worse.”
Lately, the communicable disease has also spread among the families of the infected, say health workers. According to data provided by Province-2 Health Directorate for 2018, 158 children have contracted the disease. “There are instances of disease contraction among wives and children of the victims,” said Rajesh Thakur of the Directorate.
Mallik of Sparsha Nepal said that the doctors in the team have been regularly running checkups in various locations to track of HIV patients. “We are focussing on running checkups among those who have recently returned from foreign employment,” Mallik said.