The HIV/AIDS disease has a presence in every ward and village in Goa, Health Minister Laxmikant Parsenkar told the Goa legislative assembly Monday.
Parsenkar, speaking during Question Hour, also said that the 23 suspected HIV-infected students, whose admission to a South Goa school had created controversy, were in fact not infected with the disease.
"In Goa, there is no village nor ward where there's no HIV," Parsenkar said, adding that nearly one percent of the state's 1.5 million population was infected by the disease. The health minister said the annual rate of infection was on a downward trend.
"Last year it was 550 (patients), this year it will decrease further. We need preventive measures and awareness," Parsenkar said.
Parsenkar also said that last month 23 students from a school in Rivona were victimised by society because of the HIV/AIDS stigma.
Last month, a Church-run school in Rivona, a mining village located over 50 km from Panaji, was the centre of prolonged controversy after its Parents Teachers Association tried to first block the entry of 13 HIV+ve students and later 23 other students who they suspected of having HIV.
The prolonged stand-off made national headlines. While the association managed to ensure that the 13 HIV+ve students were shifted out by the school management, they failed to block the 23 other students from getting admitted. In relatiation, over two dozen parents from the association opted to withdraw their wards from the school over the last couple of weeks.
Parsenkar now categorically claimed that the 23 students did not have HIV.
"In Rivona, the boys did not have HIV," Parsenkar said, calling for increased awareness about the disease.