Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (email@example.com)
Wed, 11 Nov 1998 13:37:07 -0800 (PST)
South Asia Correspondent Daniel Lak reports
Medical experts are warning of the threat of a tuberculosis
epidemic in Nepal as the sex trade in South Asia helps fuel
the spread of diseases.
The poverty and cramped living conditions of much of rural
Nepal means a disease that the developed world thought had
been conquered is, in fact, thriving.
Tens of thousands of Nepalis
die from TB every year - despite
countrywide efforts to spread
awareness and treatment.
Three-year-old Bishnu Maya
caught tuberculosis from her
She says: "We thought she
was going to die when she first
got sick. She had this horrible
swelling on the side of her neck
and she was coughing a lot.
Now she'll be alright - she's going to be cured."
Now Bishnu and other TB patients make the daily half-hour
walk to a clinic where they get treatment.
The little girl is given a daily cocktail of
drugs to bring the disease under control.
TB becomes resistant to treatment if all
the medicine is not taken so a local
health worker watches to make sure that
Bishnu competes the whole course.
It is safe to say that Nepal has declared war on tuberculosis,
and the battle is well under way.
But Dr Ian Smith of the World Health Organisation says there
is still the potential for disaster:
"Over half the people in Nepal have been infected with TB -
in other words they have the potential to go on and develop
the active disease.
"We estimate that over 100,000
people in the country, at this
moment, have TB. Half of them
have infectious TB -
transmitting the disease on to
other people. So the potential
for a huge epidemic of TB
About 90% of Nepal's people
live in remote rural areas and
villages. But the cities are
where the TB problem has
become most acute.
Many of those who live in the countryside will some day
move away to find work in Kathmandu - or even in India - and
that migration has added a chilling new factor to the already
disturbing epidemic of tuberculosis.
Sex slaves carry disease
For years women from Nepal have been kidnapped or lured
away to become prostitutes in Bombay's infamous red light
Many come back infected with HIV which makes it almost
certain they will get tuberculosis and pass it on.
Abserra is two - she has TB and is HIV-positive.
Her mother died from Aids a
few months ago - still mourned
by the other women who lived
and worked with her in a shelter
Aids and HIV infection are
common here - largely due to
the years these women spent as
sex slaves in Bombay.
They live at the shelter because
they are not welcome in their
villages. But their deteriorating
health is already part of an
HIV-fuelled wave of new TB infections in Nepal.
"We were at the brothel one night and the police raided and
took me away. They sent me back to Nepal. I started having
chest pains when I was in India but in Nepal I was coughing
up blood - I was really sick," one told me.
Nepal's only hope comes with keeping their children healthy -
and that means keeping them separate from infectious TB
sufferers. It is essential across Nepali society as a whole for
the health of an entire generation.
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