Spread of HIV in India Tied to Truck Drivers Soliciting Commercial Sex Workers
Truck drivers in India soliciting commercial sex work while on the road are spreading HIV throughout their routes, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (Mason, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/29). India -- where about 5.1 million HIV-positive people live, the second-highest number of any country in the world -- has experienced more new HIV cases than the 28,000 cases the government reported in 2004, according to UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/21). Counselors and experts say men and women who engage in commercial sex work at "dhabas," or local truck stops, are contributing to the country's epidemic. Nirmal Khatri, a counselor at Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial Hospital who informs patients of their HIV test results, said, "[Truck drivers] tell us they have many sex partners at red-light areas and then they have sex with their wives," adding, "It is a problem -- it is a big problem." Of the "handful" of HIV-positive truck drivers who return to clinics for follow-up visits, some report continuing to solicit sex at truck stops or having sex with their "unsuspecting" wives, who can become pregnant and transmit the virus to their infants, the AP/Star Tribune reports. According to S. Sundararaman, an AIDS consultant, the government, trucking industry, drivers' unions and truck drivers should take steps to promote safer sex (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/29). In Africa, which faces a similar problem with truck drivers and sex workers, the U.N. World Food Programme on Tuesday announced that it is opening "pit stops" in at least two Southern African countries to provide HIV/AIDS information to truck drivers. The initiative follows a South African program that set up clinics along major routes to help inform truck drivers about the disease and prevent its spread, the AP/Mail & Guardian reports (Zavis, AP/Mail & Guardian, 11/30).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.