On the Road: Increasing HIV/AIDS Awareness among Migrants in India

A transient and isolated lifestyle, little HIV/AIDS knowledge, and a tendency toward risky sexual behavior – the migrant population in India is the perfect conduit for HIV/AIDS across the country.

Over 200 million people in India are estimated to migrate regularly from rural to urban areas for employment purposes and most migrants leave their partners (usually wives) and families behind. While in transit, and at their destination, migrants who work long hours and find themselves free from the traditional norms that constrict behavior at home often do not adopt safe sexual practices. The partners who remain at home are equally susceptible to HIV/AIDS, both because partners who become infected while on the road may spread the disease to them, and because they too may have an expanded sexual network when their partners are away.

CCP’s Migrant HIV Prevention Campaign, implemented as part of the USAID-funded Phase II of the HIV/AIDS Technical Assistance Associate Award in India, seeks to increase knowledge about HIV/AIDS, increase adoption of safer sexual practices, and increase HIV testing behavior among migrants through a communication campaign that targets source, transit, and destination points.

The Migrant HIV Prevention Campaign integrates interpersonal communication outreach activities with exhibitions and poster displays, presented under a unified brand.

The interpersonal communication materials developed by the campaign include an interactive toolkit that addresses HIV risk perception and condom use, a board game that captures the migrant’s journey and risk situations along the way, and a flipchart that narrates the story of one migrant. The migrant population is further exposed to the messages of the campaign while they are in transit through bus and mass transit billboards, posters and wall paintings.

The campaign was launched nationally in October, and in Maharashtra state on December 1st, 2010, in conjunction with World AIDS Day. Campaign results are not yet available, but the Migrant HIV Prevention Campaign underwent extensive pre-testing in four states (Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh), yielding very encouraging responses from the communities.

The widespread support of the Government of India for the campaign is evident, as emphasized in the comments of Mr. Suresh Shetty, Health Minister, as the Maharashtra state launch: “I am certain that this communication campaign will ensure that HIV prevention messages reach out to each and every migrant and they are also motivated to access all available services.”

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