This is a story of how ACP can complement a Targeted intervention programme. Our main learning is that resources, medicines and awareness is important but not enough. For an effective response to HIV engagement of the community is a must. This sharing also has an interesting anecdote of Pappu the transport manager of Sapan Transport in Dimapur district who changed to support the truckers on HIV after coming in contact with the ACP team.
Our NGO called NEDHIV is responsible for Targeted intervention with truckers which is funded by Nagaland State AIDS Control Society (NSACS) in Northeast part of India. Under this we are involved in reaching out to truckers, informing the services available and providing services like STI treatment, condom distribution and referrals for HIV testing. We also organise HIV camps, identify new truckers and ask the transport manager to send us truckers who were not keeping well to the clinic and would give him condoms to put in his office.
Before the introduction of ACP the truckers’ community was not thinking what it could do by themselves but what we could do for them. We too had never utilised the strength of the drivers and transport owners and staff. We were always struggling to meet the targets of taking truck drivers for testing. The uptake of condoms kept for truckers in the transport office was poor and the transport manager, Pappu, was not interested in HIV. His duty was to oversee the goods, to load and unload and to transport the goods. Though he was concerned for drivers but he thought it was not his duty to get involved.
What was the change after ACP?
In November 2009, we did a SALT visit with truck drivers and their helpers. For the first time we asked the community what were their needs and concerns. We spoke as equals, as human beings. The transport manager, Pappu, was curious and he joined the discussions. Soon he started sharing his concerns and speaking about HIV and took the lead in responding to HIV among truckers.
We organised World AIDS Day (WAD) with truckers , some of the truckers were excited but we did not think Pappu would get involved. When Pappu found 20-30 truckers playing cards, he urged them to join the WAD activities as it was important for them to participate in WAD. Encouraged by him, this group of drivers got up to participate in the program.
Pappu also started taking keen interest in our activities. He wanted other transport owners and staff to get involved too. Therefore, he invited them to start talking about issues of truck drivers and HIV and has called for formation of a group. “I am always ready to help”, he says. He bought carom board from his own money for the drivers to keep them busy in playing carom and thus, away from risky behaviour. One of the drivers from Andhra Pradesh told us that Pappu has changed. He has become very friendly, and changed in the way he talks to drivers. Drivers are from outside the state and do not know where the clinic. He has started to show them the way to the clinic.
Earlier we would ask Peer educators to get at least 10 drivers for testing every month but now truck drivers are coming on their own every day. There has been an increase in uptake of services and blood testing. While 300 tested in 2008-2009, 34 drivers turned up for testing in one month in February 2010 whereas earlier we could not even get ten per month.
Now we are no longer service providers which brought them services. ACP has got the community members together, stimulated their thinking, generated discussions and helped them identify their strengths and people are coming on their own for services. In offices of other transport companies like Transking and Rama Transport condoms now finish fast and they are asking for more. Earlier we used to put the condoms in the transport office and dhabha boys. Now they approach us for the condoms.
Rajiv who works in a hotel where truckers come to eat has started helping with our work. The discussions reminded him of how when he lived earlier in Silchar a truck driver friend of his had died of HIV. Hence, he felt that he needed to do something. Now, he distributes condoms to drivers and brings drivers to the clinic and several truckers have got tested through him.
So changes are happening, so many of them. Through ACP we are making community more competent and also supporting the national programme. Targeted intervention programmes alone are not enough as they just focus on targets. HIV cannot be addressed as a stand alone issue it has to be approached in the whole context.
(I work with NEDHIV, Dimapur, Nagaland on Truckers programme in HIV. I am posting this on behalf of my team- Fr Joe, Jenpui and Prem.
Our NGO was supported by UNAIDS India and SIDA for applying ACP and stimulating community response in villages. However, the ACP tools we learnt in the ACP project, we decided to apply in truckers project with remarkable results. We were encouraged to use ACP with truckers thanks to the India-Kenya e-discussion on Truckers and HIV on this network.
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