Not tourism, migrant labour spread AIDS in Goa, says NGO

May 7th, 2009 - 5:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, May 7 (IANS) Migrant labour and not tourism was responsible for the rise in AIDS numbers in the coastal resort state of Goa, an NGO said Thursday.
Gaurishankar Ghosh, chief executive officer of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) India Suraksha, which is working at normalising the lives of HIV and AIDS affected children throughout the country, said that migrant labour and not tourism was responsible for the spurt in the HIV/AIDS infections in Goa.

The claim made by FXB India Suraksha, which has a network in 32 states and an outreach to 13.5 million people, is in contrast to repeated re-assertions of the state controlled organisation set up to deal with HIV. The Goa State Aids Control Society (GSACS) has been flogging the tourism bogey for increasing HIV/AIDS numbers in the state.

“The tourists who come to Goa are generally an aware lot and they take a lot of precautions to ensure that they do not get infected,” Ghosh told reporters at a press conference held in co-ordination with the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).

“The entry point for the infection, are the migrant labourers who work in Goa for a while before travelling back to their homes. They are the carriers. Tourism alone is not a mega factor as far as HIV/AIDS in Goa is concerned,” Ghosh said.

FXB is at present working in the unauthorised slum of Zuarinagar near Vasco, 35 km from here, where they are dealing with 42 HIV orphans — children whose parents have died due to HIV and 20 children infected with HIV.

Speaking to reporters earlier Pradip Padwal, project director at GSACS, said that Goa clocked nearly three cases a day of people being infected with AIDS. Padwal maintained that tourism was responsible for the rise in HIV/AIDS cases.

“The tourism industry, a permissive society, drug use, etc., have left vulnerable children in danger of getting infected with HIV,” Padwal said.

According to statistics available with the GSACS, 115 persons died of HIV/AIDS in 2008, as against 15 deaths in 2001, indicating a sharp rise in the number of deaths due to the deadly HIV infection.

Over the last two decades, Goa has seen a drastic decline in the number of blue collared unskilled workers, who have either migrated abroad to countries in the Gulf or other parts of Europe in search of work or have given up unskilled labour altogether.

Increasing urbanisation and development has seen lakhs of unskilled labourers from the neighbouring states of Karnataka and Maharashtra, in order to fill the vacuum.

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