Truck drivers are said to be using the free condoms to plug leaks. And that’s just one of the inputs the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) has considered while recasting the targeted intervention programme for this group.
A recent study showed while Tamil Nadu is celebrating the dip in prevalence of HIV/AIDS, there has been no significant decrease in the prevalence of the virus in six epicentre districts–Namakkal, Salem, Dindigul, Karur, Theni and Madurai–where truckers are in large numbers. Naco and the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society confirmed this.
Namakkal and Salem, which saw a temporary dip in 2003, registered a rise in 2007 when the prevalence rate crossed the 2% mark. The prevalence in the state has come down from 1.2% in 2001 to 0.38% in 2006 and 0.25 in 2007. Experts say TN could be removed from the list of highprevalence states if these epicentre districts show a decline in prevalence. “We’ve heard about the misuse of condoms from truckers themselves. We know many of them give little importance to condoms, which are distributed free, but we can do little as it’s up to them to make the right use of condoms,” Naco director general K Sujatha Rao told TOI.
In a bid to get results in these districts, Naco is planning a radical shift in its approach, bringing in community-based organisations along with NGOs. “We’re not satisfied with the present module for truckers. We’re looking at involving truckers’ associations to build peer pressure,” she said.
According to Naco, a majority NGOs work from 10 am to 6 pm, while lorry owners begin work after 6 pm. “There are no counsellors to meet them at refreshment points or roadside dhabas at midnight. Even if there are counsellors, testing centres don’t work at night. The only intervention is Condom distribution,” said Kausalya of the South India Positive Women Network.
Source: Times of India