Tirupati-Tirumala hills grapple with rising AIDS cases

Hyderabad: There has been a steep rise in the number of HIV/AIDS cases in one of India’s holiest Hindu pilgrimage sites, the Tirupati-Tirumala hills.

Andhra Pradesh AIDS Control Society has found out that over 200 commercial sex workers operate in the area.

"We have come across this information through unofficial sources that there is commercial sex activity even in Tirumala. There are about 200-300 sex workers there," Project Director, AP AIDS Control Society, K Chandravadan said.

The discovery reveals that sex workers clandestinely operate in about 15 secluded spots in the hills.

Chittoor – another district known for its pilgrimage sites – has also been identified as a high-risk zone. Incidentally, smoking, drinking and non-vegetarian food are banned in the Tirupati-Tirumala hills. The temple authorities, however, have denied the findings.

"I disagree with the media reports. There are thousands of employees here who are sincere and dedicated. There is no scope for such scandals. We would never allow it," Executive Officer, Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam, KV Ramanachary defended.

Special VIP darshans, a possible dress code and alleged discrimination against scheduled castes – the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam has been enmeshed in various controversies lately.

While the temple authorities are now in damage control mode, news of rampant prostitution has shocked devotees.

Shwetal Rai, for CNN-IBN

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