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Inflated media reports harm HIV/AIDs affected people: activists

Written by: Staff

Mumbai, May 14 (UNI) Recent media reports claiming that 9,500 out of 50,000 cab drivers in Mumbai are HIV positive, has sent shock waves across activists and civil society groups campaigning against stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.

People Health Organisation (PHO) General Secretary Dr I S Gilada told UNI that the figure of 9,500 taxi drivers diagnosed HIV positive quoted by a section of media, ''was wrong and inflated''.

The news report failed to quote a single authentic agency regarding its claim of numbers, he added.

''Such brazen act of yellow journalism could encourage stigma and discrimination against cab drivers and would instill a sense of fear and insecurity in the common man's mind,'' Mr Gilada said.

He said HIV infection among cab drivers could be a little higher by two to four per cent, whereas city prevalence is less than 1.5 per cent, but a ten-fold exaggeration of the figure is ''criminal and harmful to the entire community of cab drivers''.

Dr D G Saple of Human Health Care&Research Foundation told UNI, ''It is scary to hear of such inflated figures. I have been treating people suffering from HIV/AIDS for many years and it is wrong to categorise any specific group as highest carriers''.

He stated that the syndrome is more prevalent among migrant workers and others living alone in the city, while cab drivers form a miniscule minority as carriers.

Cautioning against misrepresented data and information campaigns, Shabana Patel of Network of Positive People Living with HIV/AIDS told UNI, ''Society still considers it a taboo to deal with people living with the virus. Now with such inflated figures making rounds, it will be difficult for cab drivers to avoid suspicious stares''.

''I have come across very few cab drivers in the last few years carrying the virus. They do not fall into the high categorty segment and Bombay has a well entrenched HIV/AIDS campaign comnpared to other places,'' Ms Patel added.


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