India’s Hijra Community Promotes Safer Sex, HIV Awareness
Members of India's community of hijras -- pre- and post-operative transsexuals and cross-dressers -- who work as commercial sex workers are helping to promote awareness about safer sex and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, AFP/Google.com reports. According to AFP/Google.com, hijra sex workers often refuse to engage in sex unless the client uses a condom. The hijra communities provide information about HIV risks and protection in India, where discussion about sex is generally taboo and formal sex education is largely absent from schools.
Organizations such as the Bhoruka Charitable Trust, which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provide educational programs promoting HIV awareness among India's long-distance truck drivers, who are more than three times as likely to have HIV as the general population, the Transport Corporation of India Foundation reports. Bhoruka holds discussion groups about safer sex, performs daily street plays in truck stops and installs vending machines selling condoms for five rupees each, or about 10 cents. Truck drivers also can seek HIV testing at Bhoruka's medical center on the highway or receive prescriptions and counseling at the organization's traveling ambulance. According to AFP/Google.com, India's National AIDS Control Organization soon will oversee all of the HIV/AIDS programs operating among the country's transportation sector (Hazlewood, AFP/Google.com , 11/29).
India's HIV/AIDS Organizations Require More Funding, Advocates Say
In related news, although local HIV/AIDS facilities are "at the heart" of India's five-year plan to reduce the HIV incidence, several advocates say their organizations need greater funding support to provide services, AFP/Google.com reports. Sunny Joseph, administrator at the community HIV/AIDS care center Snehadaan, said his organization "need[s] more money," particularly for antiretroviral drugs. Snehadaan receives $1,350 per month from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Karnataka Health Promotion Trust and receives $1,200 per month from the USAID-sponsored Samarth Project. Snehadaan spends about $1,800 to $2,000 on medication each month and the remaining funding goes toward wages and operating costs. This level of funding is "not enough," Joseph said.
Nalini Mehta, India's national program manager for UNAIDS, said India has a wide-ranging and well-regarded policy for HIV/AIDS and has increased budget allocations for the disease in recent years. Although some HIV/AIDS organizations might claim "there is not enough (money)" for their programs, India's government understands there is "scope for a lot more," and is in the process of "upscaling" HIV/AIDS efforts, Mehta said. UNAIDS also has expressed concern that second-line antiretroviral drugs, which cost $280 for a two-month supply, and pediatric treatment are "inaccessible" in many Indian states. According to AFP/Google.com, between two million and 3.1 million people in India are estimated to be HIV-positive (Hazlewood, AFP/Google.com , 11/29).