funded by KSAPS
KGTA Members meet Malini Krishnamurthy (IPS, IGP, Central Range)
KGTA Members meet Jyothi Prakash Mirji (IPS,Commissioner of Police B'lore)
The high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV/AIDS among lorry drivers, “hamalis” and others engaged in the transport business is causing considerable concern among health officials.
The situation has reached alarming proportions in recent years leading to a plethora of intervention programs launched by different agencies. Alarmed at the situation, the Karnataka Goods Transporters’ Association (KGTA) has embarked upon a novel initiative of establishing a health centre, Seva, at the State-owned D. Devaraj Urs Truck Terminal at Yeshwantpur here, by roping in lorry owners.
The KGTA, established in 1961, signed an agreement with the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society in December last and received a grant of Rs. 5.5 lakhs during the past five months. It is holding discussions with M.S. Ramaiah Memorial Hospital to operate a full-fledged centre with
counselors, doctors and medicines, says project director V.R. Fernandes, who is also senior vice-president of the KGTA.
Seva hopes to address myths and misconceptions associated with HIV and is aiming at an attitudinal change on the part of the general public as well as offering realistic solutions to sexual health problems. It also intends to promote the use of contraceptives. The
organization is engaged in activities such as counseling, referrals, advocacy meetings and peer education, and also
organizes street plays to educate lorry drivers.
The makeshift clinic, presently functioning out of a small building, will be relocated to the new KGTA premises shortly. It has already opened five outlets to supply contraceptives free of charge to lorry drivers.
“We staged 20 street plays, conducted 1,847 contraceptive promotion programs and 5,187 individual and group interventions during the last five months,” the project director said.
Doctors at Seva provide free treatment to lorry drivers infected with HIV/AIDS and other diseases as well as educate them about such ailments. The KGTA has enlisted the help of the M.S. Ramaiah Memorial Hospital, which runs its own full-fledged community health project. The vice-chairman and director of M.S. Ramaiah Educational Institutions, M.R. Seetaram, has promised all help, including posting of doctors, Mr. Fernandes said.
The intervention aims at covering 10,000 drivers, helpers, cleaners and thousands of families residing around the truck terminal, which is spread over 45 acres, said S.P. Vij, president, KGTA.
Almost all lorry drivers are in the sexually active age group and stay away from their regular partners for long periods owing to the nature of their work. Lack of entertainment, consumption of alcohol and availability of sex workers on the highways make them more vulnerable to infection, he said.
During the past six months, 75 lorry drivers with STDs were referred to K.C. General Hospital in Malleswaram here. Several people with HIV residing in Yeshwantpur, Laggere, Mahalakshmi Layout, Peenya Industrial Area and Dasarahalli visit the clinic for treatment, Sangamesh Chour, project coordinator, said.
Drop in productivity
A significant number of lorry drivers experience a drop in earnings and productivity if they are infected with HIV. “Our Seva (centre) has created an attitudinal change in the minds of truckers. Their apprehensions are being addressed and their emotional needs taken into consideration,” Mr. Fernandes said.
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