Gujarat, the western Indian state is ruled by Hindu zealots. But they seem to have had the sense to take precautions against HIV/AIDS by encouraging distribution of condoms at vulnerable points . The move is paying dividends, officials say.
Particularly making available condoms at theatres screening porn films in Surat has succeeded in spreading awareness of the epidemic among vulnerable groups. The city has a large number of migrant laborers who come to the city to work in its diamond and textile factories.
Gujarat is not a high HIV/Aids prevalence state, but in its 2004 estimates, India's National Aids Control Organization (NACO) said there had been a significant increase in the number of cases being reported in the state. Snehlata Bhatia, project manager of the program at Surat Municipal Corporation, said the state could be described as a "middle prevalence" state.
Since they decided to target audiences at theatres showing pornographic films, the results had been more than encouraging, she said. "In our attempts to spread HIV/Aids awareness, we study where our target groups live, the places they visit," Mrs Bhatia told BBC News. "We are already working with the diamond industry and the builder's association and when we realised that a lot of migrant labourers were coming to these cinemas to watch porn films, we got in touch with these cinemas."
According to Dinesh Prajapati, a member of the Sargam Manav Seva Charitable Trust, an NGO working on the project, many migrant workers who visit these theatres often pick up prostitutes hanging around the cinemas and take them inside the hall or to a cheap guest house afterwards. "Here, we are reaching out to two major high-risk groups and we don't only provide them with condoms to promote safe sex, but also give them information about HIV/Aids and other sexually-transmitted diseases," he said.
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