Condom Vending Machines (CVMs) will be set up at railway stations throughout the country, if the proposal mooted by the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) comes through.
The organisation has been encouraged to push through the idea largely on account of the track record of the Indian Railways in creating HIV-AIDS awareness. In consort with UN agencies, NGOs and the NACO, the Indian Railways has been conducting what has been billed as the world’s largest mass mobilisation AIDS awareness campaign on board a unique train called the Red Ribbon Express — into the second lap of its one year-long journey that began on World’s Aids Day on December 1.
The ministry of railways has also granted a 50 per cent concession in train fares to AIDS patients for treatment at nominated Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) centres. Thirty-five counselling and testing centres are also being run and ART drugs also made available.
In association with UN agencies, the South Central Railways conducted a four year-long exercise in AIDS awareness between 2002-06 at Vijayawada — the programme having been anchored by the Railway Women’s Empowerment and Aids Prevention Society (REAPS). In brief, the railways — India’s largest public sector employer — has not been lagging behind in its commitments towards social interventions.
If free spaces for the setting up of the CVMs are provided by the Indian Railways, the NACO intends to push through with the idea at metropolitan centres and big railway stations to begin with.
An established fact — as ascertained by innumerable survey reports across the world — is that transport workers with frequent travel assignments are more prone to sexually transmitted diseases including the HIV-Aids virus, said International Transport Federation (ITF) Asia/Pacific deputy regional secretary Mahendra Sharma.
In 2005, the Railways had 5,478 reported cases of HIV and 800 of these had started anti-retroviral therapy. According to the United Nations Development Fund for Women 2007 report, India has an estimated 50 lakh people affected by HIV-AIDS.