Positive People is one of 32 NGOs working at the grassroots level among truck drivers, for the Healthy Highway Project.
Baldev Singh is on the road for the greater part of his life. As a truck driver he risks his life, manoeuvring the heavy truck along unpleasant roads, avoiding rash drivers and sleeping irregular hours. But a bigger threat is already eating into the system of the young man.
It's HIV/AIDS, which he may have contracted on one of his visits to a commercial sex worker. "Weeks on end without family; absence of any entertainment and recreation facilities at halt points; low level of education and little access to media seem to form and reinforce a reckless sexual behaviour pattern in truckers (www.goacom.com/community/positivepeople/p! ersonnel.html). Like Baldev, thousands of truckers risk HIV/AIDS, being ignorant of the need for safe sex .
Internationally, research studies on the sexual behaviour patterns of truckers point to a high vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. In India, a 1994 study on Highway No. 5 at the Andhra-Orissa border by the AIDS prevention division of Child Foundation of India, Vizag (Andhra Pradesh) revealed that of 5,709 truckers surveyed, 4,949 were sexually promiscuous. Of these only 11 per cent admitted to the use of condoms.
Further, the abysmally low levels of education and awareness on AIDS, the sources of infection, prevention and protective sex can have devastating effects. It can lead to the rapid transmission of AIDS across the land, along trucking routes.
To slow down the spread of HIV, the Healthy Highways Project (HHP) is being implemented by 32 NGOs throughout the country under a bilateral agreement between the Government of India and DfID-I (Department for International Development-India). The project aims at educating truck drivers on the use of condoms, motivating them to seek early and complete treatment for STDs, HIV/AIDS and getting their partner/s treated for the same.
The state of Goa, sees a large number of trucks entering the state. The Directorate of Transport estimates 50,000 trucks entering the state annually. The HHP in Goa is being handled by Positive People, a local social service organisation working in the area of HIV/AIDS.
Positive People's outreach targets were 10,000 truckers per year. Positive People organise a referral network of doctors for the treatment of STDs around halt points. Truckers identified with STDs are accompanied to a network doctor. Treatment is subsidised for the poor helpers of the drivers. Communication material designed in Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu gets the message on HIV/AIDS across.
During April 1999-September 2000 in Goa, Positive People managed to speak to 14,183 truckers on STD, HIV/AIDS. Nearly 20,091 condoms were distributed free of cost after demonstrating their correct use. The Project in Goa identified, appointed and trained 12 peer educators, eight from the trucker community and four among the sex workers. At the end of a one-year period a positive rapport with the trucking community has been achieved by Positive People\\\'s outreach workers.
Contact: Elizabeth Shivkumar
A-7,!st Floor, Skylark Apartments
Panjim, Goa 403001, India