Counselling is helping hundreds of truckers in Delhi adopt safe sex practices, reports Devang Chaturvedi
He is sturdy, speaks in chaste Hindi, unshaven face and is usually adamant in approach. His life is spent on the long meandering roads of India, driving a mammoth. He stays away from family for so long that once he returns, he is clueless about what to do. His earning is meagre compared to the strenuous efforts he puts in. His mind toggles between accelerating and pushing the brake pedal.
He is an ardent fan of Bollywood music listening to them on his unending road trips. His preferred favourite is Kishore Kumar. He loves Butter Chicken and is haughty about the way he gulps his favourite liquor down. He is not dismayed about speaking brazenly about his sexual encounters on the road. He is not concerned if people would term him uncouth.
Joginder (name changed), 45, drives an eight wheeled truck on the Baddi- Delhi- Kolkata route and his preferred destination is always Benares. He has a good reason: “Finding a commercial sex worker (CSW) here is as easy as finding a cigarette in a pack of cigarettes. I do not know why they are so easy to get there but who cares. Getting them is all it matters when one craves for sex. There are times when even the Commercial Sex Workers are not available and the only way to satisfy your carnal needs is either by forcing the cleaner to perform an act of sex with you or indulge in masturbation.”
Joginder had a never care attitude. Until recently, that is. An initiator at the Khushi Clinic, an initiative of the Transport Corporation of India Foundation (TCIF) spent time with him and convinced him about the dangers of unprotected sex. Says he: “I have never used a condom until recently when I was forced to. I used to feel that it hampers the level of satisfaction but upon using it, I found no problems whatsoever.” He now understands that to stop the HIV virus from contraction he has no choice than to use a condom.
Situated in the vicinity of the Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar in New Delhi, the Khushi clinic is located along the Karnal GT Road. It is a dusty stretch of land measuring roughly up to 77 acres and perpetually strewn with trucks.
At ten in the morning, the Khushi Clinic at Building no 52, Block AG, starts the process of screening truckers for suspected HIV virus. However, the only difference between a normal clinic and this one is that potential patients need to be motivated enough to get themselves tested, unlike patients at other medical facilities.
Pervez Hussain, Programme Officer, TCIF, points out, “Motivating a trucker for suspected HIV screening is as tedious a task as moving a huge boulder from one end of the road to another. One has to be mentally prepared as the truckers are usually noncommittal. They fear being recognised and usually duck, when asked whether or not they have undertaken an HIV test.”
The Khushi Clinic follows a decentralized model functioning at different locations. For a place as huge as the Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar, the Khushi Clinic has conveniently been divided into one static and six satellite clinics, keeping in mind its approachability for the truckers.
While the static clinic is immobile and usually serves as the head operational the satellite clinic is set up in mutual agreement with a transportation company at their office. Both the clinics have qualified MBBS doctors, a counsellor and numerous initiators.
They well know that truckers would be hesitant to share information on their sexual habits. This is the precisely why initiators first motivate them to visit the Khushi Clinic and then slowly get them to open up. They usually do after they realise that the havoc that HIV could wreck on their lives. The initiators could be truckers, cleaners, dhabha owners, barbers and cobblers.
The initiators work in informal settings and usually roam about in groups of two with huge chart papers in their hands and a couple of bold markers. A comfortable place is found where they open out the sheets. Colourful markers are then handed over to the truckers assembled. They are initiated into a game of “Body Mapping.”
The game of “Body Mapping gets the initiator asking the trucker to draw a nude image of a man and a woman. Once finished, he then asks the trucker to identify the possible body areas where the HIV virus can easily be contracted and the reasons behind. He also explains the benefits of using a condom and practicing safe sex. Finally, it’s the prerogative of the initiator to make sure the trucker is motivated enough to visit the Khushi Clinic for HIV screening. “In a majority of cases the truckers do visit the Clinic, are counselled and an HIV test performed. The ones, who still remain unconvinced, are put through more counselling sessions with the initiator,” says Pervez.
In the last decade, the Khushi Clinic has counselled thousands of truck drivers. In the process, they have helped many of them lead healthy lives and also spread the message of safe sex.
(Names have been changed to protect identity).