February 16, 2008
Nepal has just started recovering from the devastation of a civil conflict which in the past decade killed nearly 13,600 lives. The other big conflict that now occupies the mind of the donor community helping Nepal at large is AIDS which is expected to take away 15,000 Nepali lives each year for the next decade, which in ratio roughly comes to an alarming 11 people dying for every person killed in the civil conflict. According to the UNDP website You and AIDS, Nepal hardly has the resources to fight the disease. International aid agencies such as USAID which have contributed tremendously to the efforts of the Nepal Government since 1993, sometimes feel the resource crunch even though American funding has been generous amounting to roughly US $ 20 million a year to the poor Himalayan Kingdom. The sad part of the story is that the larger percentage of deaths in future is going to be Nepali women, who account for nearly 60% of Nepal´s labour force in the agricultural sector.In South Asia, Nepal certainly tops in the number of returning commercial female sex workers infected with AIDS in 2008. Of nearly 45% of 100,000 back from Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore Madras, various Nepali INGOs have estimated that 30% have already died, about half are married to Nepali husbands, and the remaining are working in the Kathmandu and city concentric commercial sex business in the form of massage parlours, cabin restaurants, lodges, hotels, dance restaurants, bhattis (drinking spots) and road side restaurants on highways. The total number of Nepali commercial sex workers, all of them female, is nearly 250,000 in India´s major cities. Commercial sex is easily available in Nepal, in a country which has a shortage of condoms. In the rest of South Asia too, the growing and continuing challenge of defeating AIDS has become more concentrated in women where increasing rates of infection have shown more women innocently succumbing to infections due to a lack of effective strategic and behavioral change communications interventions, weak national HIV/AIDS prevention and control strategies, porous commitment among donors and inability to concentrate on the problem as a sectoral priority which needs to be tackled with financial and AIDS prevention knowledge bank resources.
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