HIV Infection Compounds Poverty in Nepal
April 25, 2012
Nepal's 2011 census reported that among its 26.7 million people, 2 million work abroad -- many in neighboring India, which is home to 2.5 million HIV-positive people and a hub for sex workers recruited from Nepal.
Nepal's 2010 progress report for the UN Millennium Development Goals predicts the nation will reach the target of lowering the poverty rate 21 percent by 2015. The report also says Nepal has succeeded in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. Yet in western Nepal, where at least half the population lives below the poverty line, the reality is different, especially for women in villages like Rakam Kranali.
Family Health International's 2004 report "Women and HIV/AIDS -- Experiences and Consequences of Stigma and Discrimination -- Nepal" found HIV-positive women were denied access to household resources. Women with HIV often are stigmatized as immoral and blamed as spreaders of the virus.
The few remote villages with voluntary counseling and testing centers "are so poorly run that they hardly make a difference" for the women, said Ganashyam Bhandari of the HIV/AIDS Alliance. Many women cannot afford to travel to one of Nepal's 13 centers capable of measuring CD4 cell counts; most of these are in cities.
Community social worker Rani Devi Bohara blames persistent stigma against women traumatized by infection, social ostracism, and poverty on an apathetic government and a society "unwilling to change." She notes that antiretrovirals are needed, plus psychological counseling for patients and families, income generation support, and welfare programs.
"We have no choice but to try and survive somehow," said the leader of a group of HIV-positive widows. "The government is not going to help us."
Inter Press Service
04.11.2012; Naresh Newar
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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