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AIDS prevention: China to adopt Railway programme

Special Correspondent

Delegation studied South Central Railways project


  • HIV/AIDS affects about 5.1 million individuals in India
  • ``It was heartening to see that there was not much stigma attached to the disease in India''

    NEW DELHI: China is looking into the possibility of replicating an HIV/AIDS prevention programme being run by the South Central Railways at Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh.

    The ``Equalising Gender Relationships in the Context of HIV/AIDS Epidemic,'' runs in collaboration with UNIFEM to prevent the spread of epidemic by the Railway Women's Empowerment and AIDS Prevention Society.

    A 10-member Chinese delegation that was in India earlier this week to study the project at Vijayawada, said the project would be innovated to suit the Chinese conditions.

    ``While there are similarities between the Indian and the Chinese Railways systems, China does not have a developed system of schools, hospitals and other facilities like it is in India. We can adopt this concept from the Indian Railways,'' Ma Gendong, Director Division of Hygiene and Epidemic Prevention, Ministry of Railways, told The Hindu on his return from Andhra Pradesh, where the delegation also met the officers in-charge of the project.

    The HIV/AIDS affects about 5.1 million individuals in India, of which 38 per cent are women.

    The increasing `feminisation' of the epidemic is due to the gender inequality that pervades India.

    Women are at a high risk of infection due to their widespread inability to negotiate safety in their intimate relations, safe sex and inability to refuse unwanted sex.

    ``While there are about 8,40,000 reported cases of AIDS and 13,000 reported HIV infected people in China, the number of AIDS affected in the Railways is just six," Mr. Gendong said. It was heartening to see that there was not much stigma attached to the disease in India and neither was there any discrimination against them. People did not hesitate to talk about it. ``We had interactions with AIDS patients at Vijayawada, who are actively participating in economic activities as well as the awareness campaign,'' he said.

    The Indian Railways, the second largest employer in Asia and the largest public sector in the country, has a workforce of 1.8 million.

    The railway sector has an established infrastructure of institutions, schools, hospitals, trade unions, training institutes, mahila samitis, etc. that serve as crucial entry points for a gender sensitive and multi-sectoral response for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care. Andhra Pradesh has also been identified as one of the six high-prevalence States in the country and Vijayawada has a huge floating population also.

    The project offers gender sensitive sex education curriculum in railway schools, gender sensitive counselling, it also endeavours to promote dialogue between policymakers and trade unions to jointly develop policies and practices to increase prevention and treatment on an equal basis for women and men.

    Another unique feature of the project involves women's economic empowerment by setting up of a revolving fund which helps HIV positive women undertake entrepreneurial activities. Counselling is done through `Peer' counsellors or trainers who have reached out to 2,05,000 people, providing them with information on HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, gender training, human rights and legal literacy.

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