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Govt plans health kits for trains

All migrants going to cities to find work will get a medical kit with information on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases before boarding trains under the Centre's new strategy to control HIV and AIDS. Sanchita Sharma reports.

delhi Updated: Jun 15, 2010 23:38 IST
Sanchita Sharma

All migrants going to cities to find work will get a medical kit with information on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases before boarding trains under the Centre's new strategy to control HIV and AIDS.

The project will start in July. Each year, 200 million migrations take place in India.

"Railway stations are a captive area for migrants leaving homes. We plan to offer health counselling and medicine kits before they board the train and at the major junctions on the way," said K Chandramouli, secretary and director general, National AIDS Control Organization (NACO).

The kits will have first-aid material, basic medicines, condoms and information on protection against HIV and STIs.

After tracking migration patterns across the country, the NACO has identified 200 districts from where the bulk of migrants travel. Railway stations and health centres in these districts will now be inundated with information on protection against infectious diseases.

Along with truckers, migrants are the "bridge population" that transmit HIV from high-risk groups such as female sex workers to the general population when they go back to their families.

HIV prevalence is 4.9 per cent among sex workers compared to 0.49 per cent in pregnant women, who are a proxy for the general population.

"Over the past decade, HIV prevention programmes focused on providing migrants' services at the destinations, such as Mumbai, Surat, Pune and Delhi. Now information and services will be given at the source of migration and transit points to stop potential infection at the destination," Chandramouli said.

About 22.7 lakh people live with HIV and AIDS. Infection among adults (adult prevalence) has dropped from 0.45 per cent in 2002 to 0.29 per cent.

According to NACO, 19.26 lakh migrants currently benefit from 2006 government-funded migrant interventions in 32 states through aids control societies and informal networks of contractors and labourers.

The tracking involved mapping migration routes.

"We found, for example, that a lot of men left Azamgarh to work in Mumbai and Bhiwandi in Maharashtra. Since all of them travel on this one train that leaves for Maharashtra every day, they can easily be given information before they board," Chandramouli said.

Under the new strategy, HIV prevention and testing services will also be provided to migrants' spouses and families by linking the Integrated Child Development Services, Rashtriya Swathya Bima Yojana and HIV-related healthcare.