02 January 2012
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi India
Will Chug Out From Delhi On Jan 12 & Cover 160 Stations
Mumbai’s Thane station, what National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) calls one of the main “melting pots” for migrants, could become one of the stops for the Red Ribbon Express (RRE).
NACO has asked the railways ministry for permission to stop the train at Thane to create awareness about HIV among migrants, besides testing and counseling them.
The train will chug out from Delhi on January 12, and traverse over 160 stations covering 30,000 km across 23 states. A NACO official told TOI that “Migrants are one of the major focus areas this time for the RRE along with youth. In the first time, the focus was on creating awareness, next it was on counseling and testing services.”
The official added, “Last year, RRE stopped at 152 stations and reached out to 8 millions directly. This time it will travel to 160–165 stations. Around 30–40 stops will be to mainly address migrants. We have asked permission to stop at Thane, if not then at Bhiwandi to address migrants. Bhiwandi is located 15km north–east of Thane city.”
NACO says migrants are fuelling India’s HIV epidemic by having unprotected and risky sex and then returning to their villages to infect others. It had identified 68 main railway stations across 11 states from where migrants usually board long–distance trains.
Studies on the relation between migration and HIV conducted by NACO in three popular migration corridors — Ganjam–Surat, Darbhanga–Delhi and Azamgarh–Mumbai — threw up shocking findings.
The highest burden of HIV was found to be among migrants after sex workers and men who have sex with men. The studies showed that two to four times more number of informal workers have non–regular partners or visit sex workers with only 25% using condoms. Around 5% male migrants and 13% female migrants reported sexually–transmitted infections, which are nearly double the national average.
The migrants’ count is showing a steady rise. According to the 2001 Census, 30.1% of the population was considered to have migrated (314 million of the total 1,028 million), a considerable increase from 27.4% in 1991.
“NACO has revised its migrant strategy and decided to identify high out–migration locations at source, transit and destination, providing them information about HIV/AIDS, sexuallytransmitted infections and safe migration,” an official said.
RRE has been recognized as the world’s largest mass mobilization drive on HIV. Last year, around 80 lakhs were reached through the train and outreach activities. Around 81,000 district resource people were trained, 36,000 got themselves tested for HIV and 28,000 received general health check–up services.
The recent HIV estimates highlight an overall reduction in adult HIV prevalence and HIV incidence (new infections) in India. The estimated number of new annual HIV infections has declined by more than 50% over the past decade. It is estimated that India had approximately 1.2 lakh new HIV infections in 2009, as against 2.7 lakhs in 2000.
Of the 1.2 lakh estimated new infections in 2009, the six high–prevalence states account for only 39% of the cases, while Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat make up for another 41%. Nationally, the adult HIV prevalence has continued its steady decline from estimated level of 0.41% in 2000 through 0.36% in 2006 to 0.31% in 2009.
All the high–prevalence states show a declining trend in adult HIV prevalence. HIV has declined notably in Tamil Nadu to reach 0.33% in 2009. However, low–prevalence states and Union Territories like Assam, Chandigarh, Orissa, Kerala, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya are showing rising trends in adult HIV over the last four years.