Legislators in Bihar have vowed to join hands against HIV/AIDS and are set to discuss the threat it poses and ways to check its spread.
Alarmed by the rising numbers of HIV/AIDS cases in the state, members of both houses of the state legislature cutting across party lines are to participate in a conference here Saturday on the disease.
Uday Narayan Choudhary, the assembly speaker, said that over 300 legislators including 243 members of legislative assembly and 75 members of the legislative council would take part in the conference, the first of its kind here.
"Never before has such a conference been held here," said Choudhary, who is considered to be the brain behind it.
The meet will also be attended by top officials of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and representatives of international organisations like UNAIDS, UNICEF. Besides, certain non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working to control the disease would also participate in the meet and present a picture of the ground realities before the legislators.
The conference is to be formally inaugurated by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Choudhary admitted that the disease poses an increasing threat to millions across the state and said it was the right time to launch a major awareness drive. "Legislators would discuss and debate on ways to check its spread," he said.
Choudhary said that awareness is the key weapon to fight AIDS as it will not only check its spread but also counter the social stigma attached to the disease in India.
An official with the Bihar State AIDS Control Society (BSACS) said: "There are 8,228 identified cases of HIV and 1,100 known cases of full blown AIDS till date this year and over 80 persons, including 13 children, have died of AIDS in the state."
The official added that the presence of hundreds of migrant labourers and an open border with Nepal are some of the factors that contributed to the rising cases of HIV/AIDS in Bihar.
However, unconfirmed sources say that HIV positive cases in the state are not fewer than 40,000 and over 100 people have died from AIDS.
According to official figures, there were just 192 cases in 2001 but the number jumped to over 2,000 by the end of 2002 and to 2,500 by the end of May 2003.
Last week, the state government decided to constitute the Bihar State AIDS Council on the pattern of NACO to implement the measures more effectively. The chief minister will be the chairman of the AIDS council.