S. S. Kavitha

MADURAI: Women seem to be more courageous than men when it comes to voluntary testing for Human Immuno Virus or Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome. This is what records maintained at voluntary testing centres under the Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Management Project (CHAMP), a rural population accessing sexual and reproductive health services through mobile van, implemented by Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) in Madurai district, show.

As many as 867 women around 25 years of age have volunteered to undergo HIV/AIDS test against 234 men who have come for testing. In total, 1101 persons had visited the mobile and static Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centres (VCTC), said Louis S Paulraj, Branch Manager, FPAI.

“It is very disappointing to note that men do not volunteer themselves for testing while they form the main source of infection for women,” he said and added women feel more responsible in leaving out a healthy generation.

Dorothy Chellappa, the doctor who accompanies the mobile van to the villages, concurred with this view. On Monday, in Melakkal village, out of 90 persons who visited the mobile unit seven women underwent HIV/AIDS test. Among them, six were ante-natal mothers and another one among a ‘discordant couple’ (husband is positive while the wife is not).

The dominant reason for people visiting VCTC is fear aroused either following the death of the spouse or suspicion of their own self. “Twenty five per cent of people come for testing out of fear and 1.6 per cent after the death of their spouses,” Mr. Paulraj said. The other reason among 37 per cent of people was sexually transmitted infection symptoms, he said and added that ante-natal care mothers (pregnant) constituted 17.1 per cent of the visitors.

To motivate more men to come forward for testing, FPAI has planned to involve makkal nala paniyalargal and panchayat union clerks to reach out to men in their respective villages with the support extended by panchayat union chairmen, commissioners, non-governmental organisations, block-level medical officers and employees of Integrated Child Development Project. Besides, they have also planned to halt their van in front of industrial units and firms to attract the attention of men.

Under the CHAMP, which is being funded by Innovation Fund International Planned Parenthood Federation, London, the FPAI has so far conducted 134 camps in 237 villages in Tirumangalam, Tiruparankundram, T. Kallupatti, Sedapatti, Usilampatti, Chellampatti and Vadipatti blocks, benefiting 5,771 persons, between May and December 2007.

So far, the CHAMP had collected 675 kg of rice and distributed it to 135 people living with HIV in seven blocks.