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HIV-infected Rohingyas freely mingling with locals

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Publication date: 16 October, 2017

HIV-infected Rohingyas freely mingling with locals

Fear of infection spreads
SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS back from Cox’s Bazar

Media: The Independent

Original URL: HIV-infected Rohingyas freely mingling with locals

E-paper URL: HIV-infected Rohingyas freely mingling with locals


Md Abdur Rahman (name changed), 40, an HIV patient, entered Bangladesh eight years ago and is now living in Dohazari of Chittagong, with a family. He performs business at a local market, taking advantage of the government’s lax monitoring of Rohingyas living outside refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Like Rahman, Hasina Khatun (name changed), 45, and her 16-year-old daughter are living in Chittagong city’s Kalamia Bazar. They are being treated for HIV by a local NGO. They had entered Bangladesh in 2016.

Many Rohingyas, who have entered Bangladesh with HIV, are living in different Chittagong areas like Satkania, Loagahara and Chokoria upazilas, thanks to lack of government vigilance.

Sources say the Rohingya refugees are fanning out to different parts of the country with the help of middlemen.

According to the International Organisation of Migration, 5,36,000 Rohingyas have fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and crossed over to Bangladesh, which was already hosting over three lakh Rohingyas before August 25 when the recent influx began.

Ashar Alo Society (AAS), an NGO, has enlisted 65 HIV-affected Rohingyas, most of whom are male. Of them, 30 were detected after the August 25 influx, 11 were detected in 2016, and 24 before 2016.

Ten of these people are already dead.

“Of the newly identified 30 HIV-affected Rohingyas, 26 are now in Cox’s Bazar and four in the Chittagong Medical College Hospital. Of these Rohingyas, four are male children, one female child, and 25 are adults,” said Hafiz Ahmed, HTC counsellor of AAS in Chittagong.

According to AAS data, some 139 HIV-affected patients are currently in Cox’s Bazar. Of these, 55 are Rohingyas. About 539 HIV patients have been found in the Chittagong region alone.

Myanmar is one of the 35 highest-alert HIV-prone countries of the world. According to UNAIDS, there are 2.3 lakh HIV patients in Myanmar and 7,800 people have died due to the infection.

As the number of HIV-affected is rising, locals and health officials fear the spread of HIV/AIDS in the refugee camps and the adjacent areas of the Chittagong region. The risk is particularly high as these patients are scattered in different areas of Chittagong.

“We have some HIV-affected Rohingyas, who earlier came to live outside of the camps and take regular counselling and medicines from us,” said Provash Paul, HTC counsellor in Cox’s Bazar.

“As many HIV-affected Rohingyas have already spread to different parts of the country, there is a possibility of the disease spreading among our people. The government should bring the Rohingyas, who have spread out, to the fixed camps. The government should keep a strict eye  on HIV-affected Rohingyas as they should not come into contact with our people,” said Mahamudul Haq Chowdhury, founder president of the Rohingya Refugee Repatriation Movement Committee.

“At the beginning, our law enforcement agencies had no control over Rohingyas. As a result, they managed to spread outside of the camps. For our national interest, they should be brought to the camps,” added Haq.

However, government officials working in Cox’s Bazar are surprised at the rising number of HIV patients.

The health ministry has extended logistics support in Cox’s Bazar under the National AIDS/STD Programme. This included giving kits to detect HIV patients at Rohingya refugee camps, where over 35 medical teams are currently working.

Contacted, Dr Md Belal Hossain, deputy director of the National AIDS/STD Programme under the health and family planning ministry, told The Independent: “All the HIV-affected Rohingyas brought under treatment either live in the camps or outside them. The HIV-affected Rohingyas have not been isolated. They are given treatment along with Bangladeshi HIV-affected people.”

Shamsuddin Illius
Shamsuddin Illius is a print and online media journalist. He has been working in the field (fulltime) of journalism since 2010. He is very much passionate about journalism since his early age. Currently he is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard.

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