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Albanian newsreaders strip down to boost TRP

TV presenter Greta Hoxhaj, 24, during the news edition on Zjarr TV (Fire TV) in Tirana, Albania. — AFP

Faced with tough competition to win over audiences, an Albanian TV channel is taking a literal approach towards giving viewers the “naked” truth — by employing almost-topless newsreaders.

Wearing open jackets and nothing underneath, the young women reading the headlines on Zjarr TV are an unprecedented sight in the conservative Balkan country, where they first appeared on television and Internet screens last year. The channel’s owner says audiences haven’t stopped growing since.

“In Albania, where the news is manipulated by political powers, the audience needed a medium that would present the information like it is — naked,” Zjarr TV owner Ismet Drishti said.

“We don’t sell sex, we reproduce the news as it is. It’s both symbolic and good publicity,” said Drishti, who plans to launch French and English language bulletins with “bare information” following the same model.

For 24-year-old presenter Greta Hoxhaj, working in a state of near undress has proved to be a shortcut to glory. “I worked hard for five years in local television where I remained unnoticed,” a cheerful and relaxed Hoxhaj said in the studio, while her face was made up for the cameras. “I regret nothing — in the space of three months I became a star.”

Every evening at 7.30 pm, Ms Hoxhaj reads the news in a revealing and preferably pink jacket, but she was quick to point out that she dresses like other women of her age in everyday life.

Her stripped down look “is only for television, for information,” said the presenter, who also studies law and psychology when she’s not in the studio.

Ms Hoxhaj’s newfound fame has landed her a job offer in Sydney as a presenter for a soon-to-launch Australian TV channel — paying 3,000 euros ($3,280) a week, and requiring her to present the news topless. “I have not decided yet, I’m still in discussions,” said Ms Hoxhaj.

Preceding her in the anchor job was Enki Bracaj, a 21-year-old student, whose bare bulletins went viral in the Balkans and made international headlines. Officially she left because she was unhappy with her salary.

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Sex racket busted, minor girl rescued

Navi Mumbai police officials have busted a sex racket and rescued a 14-year-old girl who was forced into prostitution business.

On Friday, the minor was rescued from Airoli area after Vashi police officials received a tip-off about a prostitution business in a ‘sophisticated’ society. A woman identified as Aruna Shaikh (40) who allegedly pushed young girls into the prostitution racket was arrested. The woman would lure minor girls from poor families into prostitution by promising to pay them good money.

Officials said she had two flats in the society and would call customers to the building. The rescued girl was promised money for education in return for doing household work at the flat. Two months ago, she called the girl home, gave her `500 and then asked her bring a dress. The girl was initially excited to get a new dress, but was in for a serious jolt when the woman forced her to sleep with a customer.

As the girl is a minor, the police has decided to take strictest action possible and will register a case under section 376 (rape). “We are investigating some people who were involved with these minors and in the coming days might make more arrests in the case,” said an officer who did not wish to be named.

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‘Migrants make Assam prone to AIDS’

Increasing migrant population and proximity to AIDS prevalence states like Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram has made Assam highly vulnerable to HIV transmission.

According to a study conducted by the Assam State Aids Control Society (ASACS), as on September 30, about 11,122 people were identified as HIV-positive. Despite the fact that Assam is categorised as a low HIV-prevalence state with 0.07 per cent of an estimated adult HIV prevalence as compared to the national prevalence of 0.27 per cent, there is still a lot to worry about.

The report said that 4,268 HIV-positive cases were detected in Kamrup (Metro) districts, 2413 in Cachar, 734 in Dibrugarh and 513 in Nagaon.

Referring the data collected from recent HIV Sentinel Surveillance (HSS) among ante-natal clinic attendees or pregnant women, Karimganj, Tinsukia and Karbi Anglong districts have shown a consistent high HIV prevalence. Cachar and Sonitpur districts have both recorded more than one per cent HIV prevalence among pregnant women.

The state epidemiologist of ASACS Mr Chiranjeev Bhattacharjya told reporters, “The National AIDS Control Programme in its study has also noticed a rising trend of HIV positivity among pregnant women. The analysis of the data also revealed a stable trend of HIV positivity among general clients.”

The study suggested that Adult HIV prevalence in the state has shot up from 0.04% in 2007 to 0.07% in 2011. As annual new HIV infections have shown a downward trend in high prevalence states of Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland, annual new HIV infections in Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh have increased.

Both in Assam and Tripura, the rate of increase in annual new HIV infections is highest. The rate of positivity per thousand in Assam is 4.93. “This is something we have to work on. Evidence suggests that both in Assam and Tripura there are some emerging pockets of HIV infections. The same evidence suggests that HIV infections are mostly concentrated among female sex workers, injecting drug users and among men having sex with men, said Mr Bhattacharya.

The HIV epidemic in the state is mostly focused on high- risk groups like injected drug users comprising a 1.46%, men having sex with men (1.4%) and female sex workers (0.46%).

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