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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 04:58 GMT 05:58 UK
Aids warning for Bangladesh police
Sex workers
Bangladesh has about 2,500 registered sex workers

Police brutality towards prostitutes, homosexuals and drug users could trigger an HIV/Aids epidemic in Bangladesh, a new report warns.

The US-based organisation Human Rights Watch says these groups, which are most at risk of contracting the HIV virus, are suffering attacks from powerful criminals.

And it says health workers trying to promote safe sex have also suffered from police intimidation.

Traumatising at-risk people and prevention services could lead to an Aids explosion in the country, it warns.

"Bangladesh is brutalizing exactly the people it most needs as allies if it is to avoid a severe Aids epidemic," Human Rights Watch researcher Vivek Maru says in a report published on Wednesday.

"Violence against at-risk people traumatised them and drives them out of reach of HIV prevention services, which can increase their risk of infection."

Rape claims

The rate of HIV infection in Bangladesh is much lower than in neighbouring India.

But the Human Rights Watch report says that among injecting drug-users in one part of the country, the infection rate more than doubled to 4% in 2002.

The report quotes a 26-year-old prostitute, Jahan, who says prostitutes are frequently raped by police in hotels.

In one incident she describes how a policeman refused to use a condom.

"Why should I use a condom with you... you are not my wife, I don't care about your children," the policeman told her, she says.

Last May the UK-based group Amnesty International made scathing criticisms of Bangladesh's human rights record, giving particular attention to the police and army.

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