Shame factor

Nearly one lakh Nepalis are estimated to be suffering from the HIV/AIDS infection, but due to social taboos, ostracism and discrimination, only 5,500 such patients have revealed their actual status. As bona fide citizens, HIV/AIDS patients also have the right to equality under Article 11 of the Constitution of 1990. But it is ironic that laws that guarantee the rights of HIV/AIDS patients are yet to be passed. Responding to a writ petition filed by some NGOs working for the cause of HIV-infected patients, the Supreme Court, on October 17, issued show-cause notices to the government authorities as to why laws have not been enacted yet.

As discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients is rampant, though unlawful, there is a pressing need to ensure that these patients not only enjoy their constitutional rights but they are also legally protected against discrimination. About 3,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS infection are believed to surface every year, but the actual number could be much higher as many cases go unreported because of the shame factor, the possibility of rejection, etc. The HIV/AIDS victims are mostly those who are unaware of its causes and consequences. Unsafe sex has been identified as the main cause of the spread of this terminal disease. Building awareness and popularising safe sex methods with the help from the government as well as the civic society, focusing particularly on groups like sex workers, intravenous drug users and migrant workers and their spouses, could go a long way in preventing this fatal disease from acquiring epidemic proportions.