India To Establish ‘Safe Zones’ To Reduce HIV Transmission Among Migrant Workers
India's National AIDS Control Organization on Thursday announced that it will track migrant worker populations in cities and establish "safe zones" for the workers where they can access HIV peer education, HIV testing centers and condoms, Reuters UK reports. The safe zones will be established under the third phase of NACO's National AIDS Control Plan, which has been allocated a budget of $1.8 billion. About 75% of the control plan's third phase budget is allocated for prevention efforts among high-risk groups, including migrant workers and commercial sex workers. About one-fourth of India's population travels throughout the country annually in search of work. According to NACO Director General Sujatha Rao, the new plan will focus on about 5% of migrant workers in the country. According to Reuters UK, more than half of HIV-positive people in the country live in rural areas, and the virus is spreading because male migrants who travel to cities for work have sex with commercial sex workers and then have sex with their wives when they return home. About half of India's estimated two million sex workers use condoms, and NACO over the next three to four years hopes to increase condom use to 80% among sex workers. In addition, the country by March will increase the number of government treatment centers that provide antiretroviral drugs from 101 to 121. According to NACO, the country's free treatment programs are hindered because an estimated 86% of HIV-positive people in the country are not aware of their status (Zaheer, Reuters UK, 2/1).
Indian State To Require HIV Tests for Married Couples, Politicians
In related news, the Indian state Karnataka plans to pass legislation that would require HIV tests for couples planning to marry and for politicians entering the state Legislature, the Indo-Asian News Service/Daily India reports. Nearly 10% of HIV-positive people in India, or 500,000 people, live in Karnataka, and the state's HIV prevalence is 1.56%, according to the Karnataka State HIV/AIDS Society. According to the Karnataka Health Minister R. Ashok, the state will require the tests for politicians to encourage others to be tested for HIV. India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is opposed to mandatory testing, but Ashok said the issue is a state matter, according to Indo-Asian News Service/Daily India. "The state government is free to take new initiatives to control health problems like AIDS," Ashok said, adding, "We know the sensitivity of the issue, but the government needs to do something for the larger benefit of [the] people." The Indian state Andhra Pradesh is planning similar legislation, the Indo-Asian News Service/Daily India reports (Nanda, Indo-Asian News Service/Daily India, 1/31).