NACO, APSACS and HLFPPT to combat HIV/AIDS among women folks in AP

A Raju, HyderabadThursday, April 12, 2012, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) in partnership with Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Wing (APSACS) and Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (HLFPPT) have come out with a new initiative of promoting female condoms to combat the deadly disease of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) among the women population in the state.

In its efforts to control the spread of AIDS among the women groups, the AIDS control wing of State government had taken it as a priority agenda to popularize female condoms as a means of women’s empowerment.

C Parthasarathy, project director, APSACS, said, “We have planned a social marketing strategy to promote female condoms to combat the spread of AIDS. The plan is underway and the product has been highly subsidized by the government to make it affordable, especially to the vulnerable high-risk female population throughout the state under targeted intervention.” This social marketing programme aims at controlling HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and preventing unwanted pregnancies by giving women an opportunity to exercise their choice of opting for safe sex.

In Andhra Pradesh HIV/AIDS has emerged as one of the important public health issues in recent years. In fact, the state is second only to Maharashtra in the number of HIV infections in India. The surveillance data for Andhra Pradesh shows that the spread of HIV infection is mainly from the high-risk groups to the general population. AP has approximately 80 million people of which at least 400000 people are infected with HIV as per NACO estimates.

The 10 districts which are on high HIV alert in the state include East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur, Nellore, Prakasam, Karimnagar, Cuddapah, Nizamabad and Khammam.

As per statistics, the population of HRG (high risk groups) is about 1.51 lakh in AP. The demand for female condoms is also growing. It is believed that during the past two years since 2010, nearly 12,28,402 female condoms were sold. Purchase and re-purchase patterns have shown an encouraging response towards acceptance of the product among the female population, but still lot of awareness is required in the rural areas about the threat of spread of AIDS and measures to contain it.

According to sources, the subsidized condoms are available as low as Rs.3.50 each under social marketing for HRG female population covered under targeted intervention. But otherwise commercially, a pack of three female condoms may cost Rs.100 in select medical stores. These highly lubricated condoms induct heat and are more effective.

“NGOs, outreach staff and peer educators have been roped in and trained in all aspects to generate awareness about availability and the advantages of using this condom, which empowers women by giving them a choice to practice safe sex. Attempts at popularizing these condoms are being made through ‘kalajataras’, campaigns, earmarking of special days, illustrative pamphlets and booklets, technical support to NGOs, regular monitoring and maintenance of a sales register,” added N. Bharathi, programme manager of AP female condom programme, HLFPPT.