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Family bar on AIDS patient

Behrampore, June 5: An AIDS patient involved in an awareness campaign has been banned from staying with his family by elders in his Murshidabad village.

Twenty-six-year-old Ananda Biswas’s wife, too, has been denied a job at the local health centre in Nabagram, about 230km from Calcutta, because of her husband’s illness.

Since May 28, Ananda (name changed) has been living in a Behrampore shelter run by an NGO that had drafted him into its AIDS awareness drive three years ago.

Ananda’s father is a small-time farmer in Argram, about 30km from Behrampore town.

“The village elders drove me out when they learnt I was an AIDS patient. I have been barred from getting in touch with my two sons (aged three and five), my wife and my parents,” Ananda said. He blamed Krishna Chattoraj, a woman employee of the health centre, for his ordeal.

“Apart from a few members of the health centre staff and my family, nobody knew I had AIDS. But when my wife approached Chattoraj for a job at the health centre on May 28, she not only drove her out but shouted at her saying she would not get a job because her husband was an AIDS patient,” Ananda said.

Learning that his wife had been insulted, Ananda rushed to the health centre and got into an argument with Chattoraj. “Some elders present there heard us and told me to leave the village.”

Ananda said he had lodged a complaint against Chattoraj at the Nabagram police station. His wife said two village elders — Somen Chowdhury and Dhanu Mukherjee — had threatened to ostracise the family if they protested.

“They threatened not to allow us to use the village pond or to buy our daily needs from the village shops if we continued to live with my husband. They insisted that my husband leave,” she said.

Chowdhury admitted that the elders, including him, had told Ananda to leave. “We are afraid that if he mingles with other villagers, they too would get the disease.”

Three years ago, Ananda was diagnosed as HIV positive. “Six months back, when I went for a re-examination, the CD4 count showed 177,” he said.

The CD4 count reveals the extent of the fall in immunity in an HIV patient. If the count drops below 200, doctors usually advise anti-retroviral therapy for treating AIDS.

The chief medical officer of Murshidabad, Mangobinda Mondal, said he had ordered a probe after learning of Ananda’s ordeal. Superintendent of police Basab Dasgupta said his force was looking into complaints both from Ananda and the health centre staff. Chattoraj was not available for comment.

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