DETECTION of one after another HIV-positive Rohingya patients in makeshift refugee camps has raised worries among health workers since it poised the danger to become an epidemic within and outside the camp. Needless to say the Bangladesh government has to bear the brunt of the cost for treatment of the ill-fated people who fled Myanmar's ethnic cleansing. There is a growing fear that the number of HIV infected patients will only grow with more arrival of refugees.
Health officials have so far detected 61 Rohingyas - both men and women with HIV infection and are providing free of cost treatment at Cox's Bazar Medical Hospital, as per report in a local daily. In their estimate over 5,000 such patients have already arrived in refugee camps from Rakhine State of Myanmar where the HIV prevalence rate is around 0.8 percent-one of the highest in the world. National AIDS/STD Programme officials fear that if the arrival of refugees continues the disease may spread outside camps through unsafe sexual relation, blood transfusion, sharing of syringes and such other mingling.
Prevalence of HIV positive is one of the lowest in Bangladesh. According to National AIDS/STD Programme officials a total of 3,922 Bangladeshi nationals constituting only 0.002 percent of the population have so far been found with HIV-positive and 799 death were reported.
Recent estimate show over 6,11,000 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh since August this year while their total number stands over one million. They have brought the deadliest health disease as big challenge for Bangladesh. Treating HIV patients is highly expensive and there is growing fear that it may quickly spread.
Myanmar is one of the 35 countries accounting for 90 per cent of new HIV infections globally. The number of adults and children living with HIV is 2,30,000. The military led government in that country always neglected the health issue. Some estimate suggest each screening of a patient costs around USD 15 and the daily cost of medicines is estimated at USD 2.5 per patient.
It is shocking that the Myanmar is pushing Rohingyas with more HIV patients into Bangladesh to overload our medical services and resources to bear their expenses. The biggest threat for us is how to contain the disease from becoming epidemic. We are becoming highly vulnerable to HIV infection carried out by Rohingyas while the world is just talking about humanitarian help instead of forcing Myanmar to end the crisis and take back Rohingyas with safety to their homes. Bangladesh doesn't need relief but want to be relieved from the burden of the refugees.
We not only fear of HIV disease, their presence is creating social tension and adding to local crimes. The international community must immediately intervene to end the crisis before it grows too big for Bangladesh to handle.