The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Parents face neighbours’ AIDS ire

Ghaspur (Murshidabad), Oct. 27: Neighbours beat up the parents of an AIDS patient here last week accusing him of spreading the disease and concealing his condition.

Milan Saha, who contracted AIDS during his stay in Mumbai five years ago, tested HIV positive at the School of Tropical Medicine in Calcutta two years back. His family is now facing a social boycott.

Despite the assault and the ostracism, Milan’s parents did not seek police protection, apprehending greater retribution. They, however, denied their son’s relationship with any local girl, as alleged by the villagers.

The “residents’ fear” has prompted the gram panchayat members to launch a campaign urging them not to panic. But they have also directed Milan’s family to stay indoors.

Rekharani Pal, the panchayat pradhan of Jhilli, under which Ghaspur falls, said neighbouring villages have started boycotting Ghaspur because of the AIDS patient. “They are not buying fish and vegetables from our villagers. We informed the block medical officer of the patient’s condition on October 18 and a medical team from Behrampore came here on Saturday,” she said.

Murshidabad’s chief medical officer of health Bijan Kumar Mondal confirmed Milan’s ailment and described him as a “full-blown AIDS patient”. “His condition has led to unrest in the village. The youth has been found guilty of suppressing facts about himself and did not care to visit a health centre after the School of Tropical Medicine found him HIV positive,” Mondal said.

Milan, who was a labourer in Mumbai for three years, had wanted to get married on returning home. But that is when the first symptoms emerged. “I began to have fever frequently and got admitted to the Rampurhat hospital in Birbhum for a check-up. I was sent to the School of Tropical Medicine where a blood test showed that I was HIV positive. Doctors in Calcutta advised me not to get married or have a sexual relationship. I was also asked not to get a haircut or shave in a saloon,” said Milan.

“Initially, I kept my condition under wraps fearing a backlash from neighbours and stopped visiting the Rampurhat hospital. But I became thinner and my hair turned grey. I wanted to get married as I felt my days were numbered. Somehow, my neighbours came to know about my condition last week and assaulted my family,” he said.

Milan’s father, Sankar Saha, who owns a grocery, said the villagers beat him and his wife for suppressing facts about their son’s condition. “They have boycotted our family and refuse to buy commodities from my shop. I had no knowledge about my son’s ailment as he did not divulge anything to me. I was even trying to find a bride for him. Now I realise that he should not get married,” he said.

Kalyan Ganguly, a resident of Ghaspur, said local doctor Sadhan Adhikari became suspicious about Milan’s health when he saw him earlier this month. “We went to his house and came across medical reports confirming AIDS,” said Ganguly.

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