The government can prevent HIV and AIDS cases by educating people about safe sex practices through its voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) services programme, suggests a study conducted by faculty of University of Agriculture’s Rural Sociology Department.
The study says the VCT services should be extended to marginalised groups such as sex workers, including eunuchs.
It identifies unsafe sex practices, blood transfusion without screening and increased population movement as some of the factors in HIV and AIDS’ spread. The study, Role of Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) Service in Controlling HIV/AIDS was released at the UAF on Tuesday. Rural Sociology dean Dr M Iqbal Zafar, Professor Dr Ashfaq Ahmad Mann, Dr Sultan Ali Adil and Rabia Rao spoke on the occasion.
The speakers said a number of men move from rural areas to cities in search of better employment opportunities. They may be at higher risk of contracting the disease due to a lack of awareness about safe sex practices, they added.
As many as 16 (40 per cent) of the 40 truck drivers, who had attended a sexually transmitted diseases camp in Karachi and were later interviewed for the study, reported contact with sex workers. As many as 14 of these said they had had more than one partners. More than 50 per cent drivers reported having a male sex partner – some of them children hired as helpers and cleaners. The speakers said the study put truck drivers in the high-risk group because of the amount of time they spend away from homes. The spouses of migrant workers are also at risk of contracting the disease.
They noted the need to raise awareness about use of contraceptives. They said cultural factors may be responsible for low rate of use of contraceptives.
Reusing used injection needles was another major cause of the disease’s spread, they added.
The speakers highlighted the role of paramedical staff in raising awareness among patients and their communities. “Nurses should encourage people who have tested positive for HIV to re-take the tests at regular intervals,” Rabia Rao said.
She said nurses could play a critical role in educating people into changing their behaviour towards patients.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2012.