The National AIDS Control Organisation and the Transport Corporation of India have teamed up to launch a programme in 131 locations to raise awareness and promote safe sex among truck drivers
The nearly 5-million-strong population of truck drivers and allied crew in India are considered a ‘high risk group’ for transmitting HIV. Long hours on the road away from their families force truck drivers to indulge in unsafe sex, making them a potential medium for transporting the HIV virus from high-risk groups like sex workers to their regular partners and wives.
To contain this ripple effect, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has launched a programme for HIV prevention among truckers under the National AIDS Control Programme-III. The programme involves raising AIDS awareness and promoting safe sex through the use of condoms at transport hubs in the country.
Around 131 locations have been identified across India for implementation of the programme, and NACO has tied up with the Transport Corporation of India (TCI) for technical and logistical support to execute it.
In the national capital, New Delhi, it has identified three areas -- Azadpur Sabji Mandi, and Tughlakabad container depot and transport centre -- which see heavy movement of truck drivers.
Truckers are a critical group because they can carry the virus from high-prevalence areas to low-prevalence ones, says Dr A K Khera, Additional Director General, NACO.
Dr Khera explains that the prevalence of AIDS among truckers and migrant populations is nearly three times higher than that among the general population. Among sex workers, the rate is more than 10 times higher than the general population.
“Quite often, these truckers are clients or partners of male and female sex workers because of their separation from regular partners for a long time. Such sex practices make them vulnerable to sexually-transmitted diseases which they can transmit to other persons,” says Dr Khera, adding that women constitute 40% of the total 2.3 million HIV-positive people in the country.
The Transport Corporation of India is already running a programme called Project Kavach among truck drivers, under a grant from the India AIDS Initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The programme covers eight states along National Highways 2 and 9.
Source: The Hindu, May 31, 2009
PTI, May 30, 2009