scorecardShortage of condoms raises fears of spread of HIV/AIDS before Kumbh Mela
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Shortage of condoms raises fears of spread of HIV/AIDS before Kumbh Mela

Shortage of condoms raises fears of spread of HIV/AIDS before Kumbh Mela
EntertainmentEntertainment2 min read

The Maharashtra State Aids Control Society (MSAC) has expressed fear of possible spreading of HIV/AIDS in the run-up to the Kumbh Mela because of shortage of condoms.

The project managers said if the condoms did not reach the sex workers, the efforts taken during the past decade to reduce infections and spread of HIV would go in vain.

Yogesh Pardeshi, the district programme officer, MSAC, told TOI that some hospitals have run out of stock and condoms were being brought in from rural hospitals and primary health centres. "A meeting was held on Friday and a request for more condoms has been made to the head office," he added.

Another official from MSAC said the district now has a stock of about 50,000 condoms for the female sex workers and the men-having-sex-with-men (MSM). "The stock will get over before Kumbh," he said.

MSAC officials said the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) has stopped the supply of condoms, leaving the AIDS control society with a stock that can last only for a week. Kumbh Mela is beginning on July 14 and nearly a crore people, including lakhs of sadhus, are expected to visit Nashik to participate in the mega religious congregation.

The city has an estimated 2,000 female sex workers, 560 MSMs and 70 transgenders, while there are one lakh migrants in the district that has a monthly requirement of 1.5-2 lakh condoms. Given the current situation, the officials fear that the current stock of condoms might not be enough to cater to the huge number of people visiting the city.

The average annual requirement of condoms estimated for 2015 is 24 lakh, including those received through social marketing. Stating that an equal number of condoms was expected to cater to Nashik's requirement during Kumbh Mela, the officials attributed the crisis to the Centre's order of curtailing funds for NACO. "This, in turn, compelled NACO to curtail its funds for the MSAC and other NGOs," an official said.

Kuldeep Pawar, the project manager of the Female Sex Workers Targeted Intervention at Pravara Medical Institute, told TOI that the requirement of condoms and medicines to treat sexually transmitted infections would double during the Kumbh Mela. He said, "As there is virtually no stock left for free distribution from the government, the customers may refrain from buying condoms. This might increase chances of infection. It is also not possible for all sex workers to buy contraceptives for safe sex because of their meager income."

Pawar said the proportion of infection among the general population was more compared to the female sex workers. "But with no protection to provide, the chances are that the sex workers may get affected as well. The problem is that the government has stopped the support three months before the Kumbh. As of on July 3, we have a stock of about 22,000 condoms and this will hardly last for a week. The monthly requirement is 1.5-1.8 lakh condoms. Considering the requirement, the government should provide additional contraceptives," he said.

(image credits: kumbhmela-nashik)