Karnataka Villagers Drain Lake After Discovery of Woman's HIV-infected Body

CNN-News18
When the villagers came to know that the woman who had allegedly committed suicide in the lake was infected with HIV, they informed the officials that they would not draw the water from the lake.

Bengaluru: Four days after the body of a HIV infected woman was found in a lake in Dharwad district, the villagers decided to drain out water from the lake fearing transmission of the virus.

The lake is a source of water for about 15 thousand people in Navalagunda taluk’s Moraba village. When the villagers came to know that the woman who had allegedly committed suicide in the lake was infected with HIV, they informed the officials that they would not draw the water from the lake.

"Since the time villagers came to know that the deceased was infected with HIV, they have been afraid and refused to drink or use the water from this lake. They said they will bring water from other places, but empty the lake. We may need another 5 days to empty the lake and it may take another 15 days to fill it back," said Lakshmana, a Moraba gram panchayat member.

HIV is usually transmitted through sexual intercourse, infected blood and from an infected mother to the baby in her womb or through breastfeeding, but the villagers' alarm at the discovery a week ago drove the demand for the lake to be drained.

Even after a lot of persuasions, the villagers have refused to buy the arguments of the officials who visited them.

"We tried to convince them but they are not convinced. Earlier, the panchayat body even called for a meeting, taluk level officers also tried to convince," said Pavithra Patil, EO, taluk panchayat.

For the time being, the water from Malaprabha right bank canal, which is also the source of water for about 40 villages in the taluk, is being distributed among villagers.

"In some places, the water from the lake is used without treating even for consumption. The body was completely decomposed by the time it was taken out. There is already a social stigma about the HIV and the condition of the body is just adding to that," said Dr BC Satheeh, CEO, Zilla panchayat told CNN-News18.

According to the villagers, the lake became dirty after the dead body was found and since then nobody is ready to consume the water.

“All of us together in the village are emptying the lake for safe drinking water. For now, we are taking water from the canal,” said Channappa, a villager.

Another villager named Savakka Madiwalara told CNN-News18, "That woman had a disease. What if we all get the disease? We saw the decomposed body. How can we drink that water after seeing it with our own eyes? It is because she had a disease. If not why would we be afraid tell me?"

(with inputs from Manjunath Yadalli in Dharwad)