10 September 2010
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
Migrants To Get A Quick Crash Course On Safe Sex And Dangers Of Risky Sexual Behaviour
Come October, migrants, believed to be fuelling India’s HIV epidemic, will get a quick crash course on safe sex and dangers of risky sexual behaviour, just before they board their train to large towns and cities in search of work.
Studies on the relation between migration and HIV conducted recently by NACO in three popular migration corridors – Ganjam–Surat, Darbhanga–Delhi and Azamgarh–Mumbai – threw up shocking findings. The highest burden of HIV was found to be among migrants, after the high risk groups like sex workers and men who have sex with men.
The studies have shown that two to four times more number of informal workers have non–regular partners or visit sex workers with only 25% using condoms compared to 42% by others. Around 5% male migrants and 13% female migrants reported sexually transmitted infections, nearly double the national average.
What’s worse, the total number of migrants continue to increase in India. According to the 2001 census, 30.1% of the population in 2001 was considered to have migrated (314 million of the total 1,028 million people), which shows a considerable increase from 27.4% in 1991.
NACO, which has now asked the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria to grant $50 million for the targeted intervention on migrants, says, "In India, there is increasing evidence and growing recognition of the importance of migration in the spread of HIV infection. NACO has, therefore, revised its migrant strategy and decided to identify high outmigration locations at source, transit and destination, providing them information about HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and safe migration."
So how will this exactly work? Aradhana Johri, joint secretary, NACO, says, "The programme will roll out from before Dussehra. Outreach workers will be designated at platforms according to the timetable of trains which carry such migrants. A small pouch will then be given to them which will carry information on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Phone numbers of local NGOs working with HIV and STD patients will be given to them. We will also have health camps for migrants returning home to identify STD and the HIV infected."
Johri added, "Our studies have shown that most of these migrant districts earlier showed low prevalence of HIV. Now, like in Ganjam we are seeing the reverse trend. Migrants returning home with HIV transfer it to the spouse which has sharply increased the prevalence of HIV."
Experts say that studies from across the world have linked migration to multiple sexual partners and increased HIV transmission. It has also been found that migrants are bridge populations for HIV transmission from urban to rural areas and between high–risk and low–risk groups.