Heading towards the Safer Highways: an assessment of the Avahan prevention programme among long distance truck drivers in India.BMC Public Health. 2011 Dec 29; 11 Suppl 6:S15.BP
Using data from two rounds of a cross-sectional, national-level survey of long-distance truck drivers, this paper examines the extent and trend of sexual risk behavior, prevalence of STI/HIV, and the linkage between exposure to HIV prevention programs and safe sex behavior.
Following the time location cluster sampling approach, major transshipment locations covering the bulk of India's transport volume along four routes, North-East (NE), North-South (NS), North-West (NW) and South-East (SE) were surveyed. First round of the survey was conducted in 2007 (sample size 2066) whereas the second round was undertaken in 2009-2010 (sample size 2085). Long distance truck drivers were interviewed about their sexual behaviors, condom use practices, exposure to different HIV prevention interventions, and tested for HIV, reactive syphilis serology, Neiserria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis. The key variable of this evaluation study - exposure to HIV prevention interventions was divided into three categories - no exposure, less intensive exposure and intensive exposure. Data were analyzed using multiple logistic regression methods to understand the relationship between risk behavior and exposure to intervention and between program exposure and condom use.
The proportion of truckers exposed to HIV prevention interventions has increased over time with much significant increase in the intensive exposure across all the four routes (NE: from 14.9% to 28%, P < 0.01; NS: from 20.9% to 38.1%; NW: 11.5% to 39.5%, P < 0.01; SE: 4.7% to 9.7%, P <0.05). Overall, the consistent condom use in sex with non-regular female partners too has increased over the time (paid female partners: from 67.1% to 73.2%, P <0.05; non-paid female partners: from 17.9% to 37.1%, P <0.05). At the aggregate level, the proportion tested HIV positive has declined from 3.2% to 2.5% in (p<0.10) and proportion tested positive for Syphilis too has reduced from 3.2% to 1.7% (p<0.05). Truckers who had sex with paid female partners (men at risk) were significantly more likely to get exposed to intensive program (aOR: 2.6, 95%CI 1.9-3.4) as compared to those who did not have sex with paid partners. Truckers who had sex with paid partners and exposed to intervention program were more likely to use condoms consistently (aOR: 2.1, 95% CI 1.2-3.7). The consistent condom use among respondents who travel through states with targeted interventions towards female sex workers was higher than those who travel through states with less intensive program among FSWs.
These evaluation study results highlight the ability of intensive program to reach truckers who have sex outside marriage with HIV prevention interventions and promote safe sex behaviors among them. Truckers who practice safe sex behaviors with an exposure to intensive program are less likely to suffer from STIs and HIV, which has implications for HIV prevention program with truckers' population in India and elsewhere. The simultaneous targeted interventions among female sex workers appeared to have contributed to safe sexual practices among truckers.