The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bihar foes join hands for HIV tests

Patna, Aug. 8: Bihar’s legislators have volunteered to undergo HIV tests to create awareness about AIDS, alarmed by the rise in the number of people afflicted by the disease in the state.

“The MLAs of the state, cutting across political lines, have made an unique gesture. They have opted for the test unmindful of all kinds of social taboos,” said Bihar health minister Shakuni Chowdhary.

There are at least 99 full-blown AIDS patients in Bihar, while the number of HIV-infected patients has crossed 300. Unofficially, the number of those infected is believed to be more than 500.

One of the reasons for this alarming rise in the number of cases is that the state lies in the transit route of sex workers travelling from Nepal to Mumbai. Besides, the infection is also believed to spread in the families of migrant labourers working in the Northeast, Mumbai and Punjab when the workers return home.

The idea that legislators participate in the anti-AIDS programme was proposed by Helping Hand Foundation, an NGO that has been conducting awareness programmes in the state for about a year now.

The Delhi-based NGO sought the state government’s help and urged that legislators participate. Once the government agreed, the NGO decided to inaugurate the programme in Patna on October 1. Chowdhary, who will inaugurate the programme, will be the first to undergo the test.

The director of the Delhi office of the foundation, Tarun Kumar, said this gesture is the first of its kind in the world. “The legislators and the ministers who have shown exemplary generosity will set an example by voluntarily agreeing to undergo the test,” he said.

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav is learnt to have asked all MLAs of his party to participate in the programme. The RJD and the BJP have come together to fight the disease.

“It is not by medicine but by alertness and preventive measures that we could fight AIDS/HIV,” said don-turned- Independent MLA Rajen Tiwari. The MLA has also offered to be tested.

Bihar Opposition leader Sushil Modi is also taking interest in the programme. “As the menace is assuming epidemic proportions, why not rise above politics and do something'” he asked. His political opponents agreed.

For once, the politicians of Bihar have shown they can come together for a humane cause.

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