AIDS transmission through the Rohingya community is being increased at an alarming rate- if it is not be stopped, it will be in extreme danger, according to the opinions of the Country’s elites.
–BY M. R. AYAZ ROBI.
Bangladesh has given shelter to forcibly displaced Rohingyas from neighboring Myanmar for very humanitarian reasons. But this humanity is becoming a curse today for our beloved land. our beloved homeland is now at risk in many ways. Rohingyas today are not only a burden of idle population, but also a serious threat to our freedom-sovereignty. Moreover, they have some brain cells of acting terrorism, assassinations, extortion, riots, disturbance of peace, conflict of interest, and dominance, accompanied by yaba, drugs, gold smuggling, ice smuggling, kidnapping. This Rohingya population has brought great threats and risks to public health, including human trafficking. Since they were given shelter, the number of HIV or AIDS cases and diagnoses is being increased every year in Cox’s Bazar.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Diseases or infections are usually spread through unprotected sex. And some sexually transmitted diseases are caused in other ways than sexual intercourse. Sexually transmitted diseases can be caused by viruses or bacteria. One such deadly sexually transmitted disease is the HIV virus or AIDS. This deadly sexually transmitted disease AIDS is spreading across the country through the Rohingyas. Especially, the number of people affected by this disease is increasing day by day in Cox’s Bazar.
According to a recent statistic, the total number of AIDS patients in Cox’s Bazar till 31st July-2022 is 954. Among them, 771 Rohingya people and 183 Bengali people. 710 people are under treatment, where there are 612 Rohingya and 98 host community. So far 61 Rohingyas and 57 hosts have died due to AIDS.
concerned persons said, ‘Due to the high rate of AIDS among the Rohingyas, the risk is increasing day by day among the locals as well. Since 2015, HIV scanning program started in Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital. From October 2017 to 2019, 538 people were diagnosed with HIV in Cox’s Bazar after the massive influx of Rohingyas. 395 of them are Rohingya. However, until June 2022, the number of AIDS patients in Cox’s Bazar has reached 954. 771 of them are Rohingya. And if the HIV scan is done correctly and on a large scale, this number can increase several times more’, the people concerned think.
ART and HIV Focal Person of Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital Dr. Ashikur Rahman said, ‘Not all concerned have come under scanning yet. Therefore, it is not really possible to estimate and it is not possible to say completely how many AIDS patients there are in the Rohingya camps’.
He also said, ‘A survey shows that Myanmar is one of the countries at risk of AIDS in Southeast Asia. Bangaladesh is at high risk due to the high rate of AIDS among the Rohingya.
Ukhia Upazila Health and Family Planning Officer Ranjan Barua Rajon said, ‘We cannot confine the Rohingya population to a specific area. They have free movement with outside population. If the rate continues to increase among the displaced Myanmar nationals, it will definitely affect us too.’
In this situation, the Health Coordinator of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission and the Department of Health Care emphasized the importance of monitoring the Rohingyas in addition to identifying AIDS. More than 1.4 million Rohingyas are living in 34 shelter camps in Ukhia and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar, new and old. And the local residents are like 5 lakhs.
According to NGOs working on HIV-AIDS and the HIV treatment center of Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital, a grim picture has been found.
According to information, there is an alarming spread of AIDS in Cox’s Bazar. Especially in the Rohingya camps, the spread of AIDS has taken a terrible form. Along with the Rohingyas, the locals are also at risk of AIDS. Experts say that the disease is increasing due to the free sex of professional sex workers and drug addicts.
Cox’s Bazar District Sadar Hospital Resident Medical Officer (RMO) and HIV Focal Person Dr. Ashikur Rahman said, ‘Since 2015, the program of HIV or AIDS scanning started at Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital where AIDS diagnosis, counseling and treatment are provided. We are working on bringing those who are outside the Rohingya under medical treatment after the examination.
As of July 6-22, 710 people have been diagnosed with HIV. HIV germs have also been found in transgender bodies. 118 people including 61 Rohingyas have died due to this disease.
However, there is no account of who, where, and in what condition the survivors of AIDS are with any government or private organization’.
Dr. Ashiqur Rahman added, ‘The biggest risk for us is the Rohingya population. They come for treatment with different diseases but different tests detect HIV. They are unknowingly carrying the HIV virus. There is no control in their way of life, moreover, it is taking a fatal shape due to crowded positions and association and contact with different people’.
It is reported that 12 teams of various non-governmental organizations are working in Ukhia and Teknaf to create awareness at the field level in addition to various initiatives at the district headquarters hospital to prevent AIDS/HIV.
Many doctors and related people say that Cox’s Bazar is now a dangerous area for AIDS. The rate at which Rohingyas are being diagnosed with the disease is very low. The actual number of infected is likely to be much higher.
It is known from various sources that more than 5 thousand Rohingya girls regularly travel to various hotels, motels and guest houses in Cox’s Bazar. They are unsafely having physical relations with local and foreign tourists. This disease is spreading terribly in Cox’s Bazar. Apart from Rohingya sex workers, as it is a tourist city, Cox’s Bazar is another reason for the spread of AIDS.
Cox’s Bazar public health expert Dr. Md. Mahbubur Rahman said, ‘Ignorance is behind the spread of HIV. There are social prejudices. All the victims are called at doctor after have made the situation more complicated. Like any other conservative society, if someone is found to have HIV, they are isolated from the society. Those who have this virus in their body also hesitate to take treatment’.
Saying that Rohingyas are not confined to camps now, the General Secretary of Cox’s Bazar District BMSF Md. Shahidullah Member said, “Cox’s Bazar is a tourist city. Tourists from all over the country and the world come here for fun, excitement and entertainment. Rohingya youths are working as sex workers through various brokers in many hotels-motels or spa centers here. Moreover, this tourist city of Cox’s Bazar is a haven for many sex workers from the country and abroad. Therefore, because it is easy for anyone to fulfill their physiological sexual needs, there is an opportunity for the spread of deadly diseases like AIDS – AIDS is increasing at an alarming rate. If necessary measures are not taken quickly, AIDS can spread widely among the locals.’
When asked about this, the Bangladesh Mofossol Sangbadik Forum (BMSF) Cox’s Bazar District President Abdullah Al Mamun Ansari told this reporter, “The world’s longest beach Cox’s Bazar is an attractive tourist city of the country. There is a possibility of AIDS spreading across the country starting from Rohingya camp to Cox’s Bazar hotel-motel zone due to various reasons including free association and prostitution as a source of entertainment. various newspapers and electronic media have already reported that the rate of AIDS patients is increasing alarmingly. Therefore, if strict action is not taken against him immediately, it will not take much time for AIDS to take a dire form everywhere in Bangladesh’.
According to data collection, a Rohingya woman brought HIV to Hope International Hospital in Ukhia Madhurchora area. She said she was a victim of gang rape while in Myanmar. She started coming to the hospital again and again with various physical problems, but later came to know through various tests – he was infected with HIV virus or HIV positive.
Talking to her with the help of a woman NGO worker, it is known that due to this disease she has become isolated. No one wants to be with her. Do not want to eat together. Even her family members do not speak properly. And the neighbors don’t talk at all’. She said, ‘Everyone thinks, I have no character. It hurts when my son doesn’t talk to me. I can’t caress them’.
Another Rohingya man who was HIV positive said, he was in Malaysia. He brought this disease from there. He was deported from Malaysia because of AIDS. He thought that this disease may have occurred due to illegal intercourse in Malaysia.
Patients with HIV consider any disease as normal disease. Many people do not come to consult a doctor. And do not follow the doctor’s advice even. Moreover, one of the reasons for the spread of this virus in the camp is not following any rules and regulations in sex life. Most of them have faith and deep trust in Blow the bush ‘Jhar Phuk’. Most of the patients come to the hospital after the disease has become complicated or the disease has gone out of control.
Dr. Abdus Salam, former civil surgeon of Cox’s Bazar, said in this regard, ‘We are active in controlling AIDS from the beginning. These patients of ours were first brought to Cox’s Bazar and given treatment. After that, we set up a unit in Ukhiyar Hospital as well. There are available the modern equipments for testing there’. He also said, ‘These diseases are being released due to ignorance. Although various programs have been taken to make them aware again and again, it is becoming very difficult to make them aware’.
Cox’s Bazar Civil Surgeon Dr. Mahbubur Rahman mentioned the alarming increase in AIDS infection among Rohingyas. He said, “The main reason why Rohingyas are more affected is that the rate of AIDS in Myanmar is high. Most of the infected have brought the virus from Myanmar.”
“They are too ignorant. Most of the Rohingyas don’t even know that the husband can get infected if the wife gets AIDS,” he said.
He said, “Unsafe sex is one of the reasons for the spread of AIDS. But most of the Rohingya do not understand the issue of safe or unsafe intercourse. Ignorance and superstitions about health work among them.”
‘After the large number of Rohingyas came to Cox’s Bazar in 2017, the rate of HIV AIDS in that district increased’, said Dr. Mahbub
He said, ‘In six and a half years from December 2015 to July 31 this year, the number of AIDS patients in Cox’s Bazar is now 988. Among them, the number of Rohingya patients is 794. 193 local residents’.
According to the information provided by him, 116 people including 59 Rohingyas and 57 Bangladeshis have died since 2015.
“AIDS is increasing at an alarming rate in Cox’s Bazar,” said the resident physician officer (RMO) of Sadar Hospital in the district. Dr. Ashiqur Rahman said, “Now is the time for mass HIV testing.”
Dr. said that all services including free HIV tests and medicines are provided in the hospital. Ashiq said, “After the diagnosis of AIDS, counseling is the main treatment.”
“Many people are mentally broken after becoming HIV positive. During this time counseling is done to strengthen morale and what should be their lifestyle,” he added.
Dr. Ashiq said that since September 2018, a program called ‘Prevention Mother to Child Transmission’ (PMCT) has been launched at Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital for pregnant mothers with HIV. In this program, services are being provided to HIV positive pregnant mothers to make their babies HIV negative. The actual number is much higher. A few days ago, Md. Ismail [who lived Ukhiyar Jamtoli No. 15 Camp, H Block] brought his four-year-old daughter with AIDS to the hospital for treatment.
Ismail said, “The child was losing weight; Fever, diarrhea persisted. When he was taken to the doctor, he asked for an AIDS test, after which he was diagnosed with HIV.” he said
“I don’t understand how the child got infected. The doctor gave medicine to the girl. And after 14 days, everyone in the family is tested for AIDS.”
“Among the Rohingyas who are coming to the hospital for services, we have learned from the case studies that many of them are carrying the HIV virus in their bodies, but have not been tested. In this situation, if block-based tests are done in the camps, it can be assumed that the number of infected people will increase a lot,” said Dr. Aashiq.
‘In order to prevent the terrible spread of AIDS in the Rohingya camps, First need to be detection, then treatment and later should be taken all other necessary measures’. he added.
Due to the Rohingya, Dr. Ashiq said that the disease can spread widely among the locals. he also said, “From July last year to June this year, 1,342 people were tested for HIV in one year. Among them, 129 HIV-positive patients were found. Among them, 119 were Rohingya.”
The number of Rohingya who came to Bangladesh before and after August 25, 2017 after being tortured by the Myanmar army is now about 1.4 million. They are staying in 34 temporary shelter camps in Ukhia and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasanchar in Noakhali.
Cox’s Bazar Civil Surgeon Dr. Mahbub said, “In addition to various campaigns and counseling of the health department to prevent AIDS, various government and private organizations are now working on AIDS awareness. Recently, the tourist police has also taken some initiatives”.
He further added, “Free HIV testing is being done at Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital and Ukhia Upazila Health Complex. Apart from this, the Sadar Hospital has an Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) Centre, where free treatment and counseling is provided to AIDS patients”.
The civil surgeon said that because of the Rohingyas, the risk of the locals getting infected with AIDS is increasing day by day.
the Additional Superintendent of [Tourist] Police- Cox’s Baza, mr Rezaul Karim said, “The current spread of AIDS in Cox’s Bazar is alarming and a big threat to tourism.”
“Hotel motels and spa centers here have been ordered to stop anti-social activities. Spa centers have been instructed to conduct HIV tests at the time of recruitment and every three months,” he said.
Rezaul Karim also added that the staff of all spa centers have been instructed to submit detailed information to the Tourist Police Office by last August 10. According to the government, 14 thousand people are currently infected with AIDS in Bangladesh. 84 percent of the affected patients are under treatment.
Author: Journalist and columnist and Joint General Secretary – Cox’s Bazar District Branch, Bangladesh Mofswal Journalist Forum (BMSF) and Vice President Upazila Press Club Ukhia.