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Truckers ferrying deadly HIV virus into NE

By AF ASHIQUIRE RAHMAN
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GOLAKGANJ, April 19 � Most truck drivers live an isolated life � far from their near and dear ones � for months together. And their carnal desires are mostly fulfilled by commercial sex workers. According to a survey conducted by an NGO, about 50 to 60 per cent of the lorry drivers are in the habit of visiting prostitutes regularly. Majority of the dhabas that dot the national highways and major roads of the region are a hub of prostitution where the drivers of the trucks generally halt, especially at night.

A recent study shows that a staggering 80,000 truck drivers in India (8.5 per cent of the total of 3 to 5 million) are believed to be at risk from HIV and at least a million drivers practice high risk behaviour. For instance, a truck driver from the Northeast visiting sex workers when he is away from the region has the risk of contacting the deadly virus and spreading it in the region upon his return. This kind of behaviour aggravates the spread of this dangerous disease throughout the region, especially Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Malda and adjacent areas of North Bengal, West Dinajpur and the other areas of West Bengal. Besides, Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta and Kokrajhar districts and their adjacent areas of lower Assam are also imperilled. The sex trade has been growing by leaps and bounds here. There is no red light area and most of the prostitutes are from outside the State and neighbouring countries. Even respectable women such as housewives and young girls from localities are reported to be involved in the flesh trade.

This trade also flourishes along the Indo-Bangladesh and Indo-Bhutan borders, besides the inter-State borders. With scores of check gates that dot the inter-State borders slowing the movement of their vehicles, the drivers are forced to halt beside the dhabas, which supply sex workers, thereby increasing the high-risk behaviour.

However, Benapole in Bangladesh just across the international border is not a prey to this problem as is Petrapole on the Indian side. The reason for this is the Bangladesh Government arranging for a smooth passage for the trucks entering its territory, without having to halt. This has done away with the ills plaguing on the Indian side or along the inter-State borders. The national highways passing through Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram have become hot seats of sex trade, and thereby increased the chances of spread of HIV/AIDS. Mrinmoy Kumar Deb Adhikary, a noted social worker of Dhubri, said, �It has been found that HIV-positive truck drivers are greatly contributing to the spread of AIDS in the North-east. To combat it effectively, preventive action is the need of the hour. And it is time to act, before its gets too late.�

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Truckers ferrying deadly HIV virus into NE

GOLAKGANJ, April 19 � Most truck drivers live an isolated life � far from their near and dear ones � for months together. And their carnal desires are mostly fulfilled by commercial sex workers. According to a survey conducted by an NGO, about 50 to 60 per cent of the lorry drivers are in the habit of visiting prostitutes regularly. Majority of the dhabas that dot the national highways and major roads of the region are a hub of prostitution where the drivers of the trucks generally halt, especially at night.

A recent study shows that a staggering 80,000 truck drivers in India (8.5 per cent of the total of 3 to 5 million) are believed to be at risk from HIV and at least a million drivers practice high risk behaviour. For instance, a truck driver from the Northeast visiting sex workers when he is away from the region has the risk of contacting the deadly virus and spreading it in the region upon his return. This kind of behaviour aggravates the spread of this dangerous disease throughout the region, especially Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Malda and adjacent areas of North Bengal, West Dinajpur and the other areas of West Bengal. Besides, Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta and Kokrajhar districts and their adjacent areas of lower Assam are also imperilled. The sex trade has been growing by leaps and bounds here. There is no red light area and most of the prostitutes are from outside the State and neighbouring countries. Even respectable women such as housewives and young girls from localities are reported to be involved in the flesh trade.

This trade also flourishes along the Indo-Bangladesh and Indo-Bhutan borders, besides the inter-State borders. With scores of check gates that dot the inter-State borders slowing the movement of their vehicles, the drivers are forced to halt beside the dhabas, which supply sex workers, thereby increasing the high-risk behaviour.

However, Benapole in Bangladesh just across the international border is not a prey to this problem as is Petrapole on the Indian side. The reason for this is the Bangladesh Government arranging for a smooth passage for the trucks entering its territory, without having to halt. This has done away with the ills plaguing on the Indian side or along the inter-State borders. The national highways passing through Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram have become hot seats of sex trade, and thereby increased the chances of spread of HIV/AIDS. Mrinmoy Kumar Deb Adhikary, a noted social worker of Dhubri, said, �It has been found that HIV-positive truck drivers are greatly contributing to the spread of AIDS in the North-east. To combat it effectively, preventive action is the need of the hour. And it is time to act, before its gets too late.�