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Automobile Association of Upper India
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WE WANT NATIONAL HIGHWAYS TO BE HIV /AIDS FREE

Author T. K. Malhotra, President And CEO

Let us explain. AAUI has been associated with the cause to create road safety awareness among people, whether you are a heavy or medium commercial vehicle driver or a taxi or an auto scooter rickshaw driver or your passenger car's own driver or a pedestrian.

For over 55 years, we have been performing this duty as part of a global non-governmental organisation. Automobile Associations in more than 130 countries are affiliated with Geneva based Alliance Internationale De Tourisme (AIT) which was founded in the 1898. The objective of this global body is to ensure freedom of mobility and provide safe travel.

For past some years, we have been imparting training to heavy vehicles drivers like of trucks and buses plying on highways. Far away from their homes, many of these drivers get tempted by "sex shops'' on the highways. And there, it is unsafe sex!

Now imagine, these highway truck and bus drivers are not only risking their life, they are endangering the lives of their wives and yet to be born babies. Studies have shown that neither sex workers nor the drivers take precaution. In many remote areas of northern states, villages have shown a very high number of HIV/AIDs cases because most of the men over there are highway drivers.

NGOs associated with AIDS issues have come to conclusion that the wives of truck drivers turned HIV positive as they got the deadly virus from their husbands who got it while having unsafe sex on the highways.

We have decided to educate the highway drives about the dangers of unsafe sex which is threatening to ruin their as well as their families' life if got caught in the deadly virus of AIDS in this process.

A recent study done by a well-known NGO activist, associated with AIDS issues, Sadhna Mohan (she is the Editor of AIDSBUZZ) has shown that just two hours drive away from the national capital on the Delhi-Bharatpur-Agra highway, for centuries, a nomadic tribe has been practicing a tradition unheard of anywhere else. Its women sell sex under the watchful eyes of their parents and brothers.

For Rs 50, less than the price of a chicken burger, a young rural sex worker of this tribe sleeps with any man who comes by. She

is happy and proud walking the footsteps of the women of her tribe living in the states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

About 200 km away from New Delhi, this area is in the middle of top domestic and foreign tourists destination. The highway "sex shops'' are doing business just a stone thrown away from the world famous bird sanctuary in Bharatpur.

On the Agra-Jaipur national highway thousands of trucks ply daily. The potential for an AIDS epidemic is huge. Twelve truckers have recently been found positive for HIV in recently launched testing at the Bharatpur district hospital. No woman of this tribe has been tested so far, nor is any initiative in the offing to monitor HIV prevalence among them.

Therefore, for the first time, AAUI has decided to counsel national highway drivers also about the threat of HIV/AIDS which is far bigger than a mere road accident. We will invite experts and NGOs to hold regular talks with these drivers at the time of their training or refresher courses.

Meanwhile, AAUI during its study on more than 15,000 heavy motor vehicle drivers found that only 19% to 20% of truck and bus drivers can be called 'safe drivers'. The formalized structure essential to run a driving training school is now in place at the AAUI's run driving training institution.

A two day refresher course to benefit school transport and heavy motor vehicle drivers is being conducted in the Institution.

The density of vehicles in the country particularly in Metros has increased beyond a limit. There is need to train truck and school
transport drivers as also car drivers scientifically to reduce frequency of road accidents.

AAUI has imported the world class "virtual reality electronic simulators" to impart driving skills and evaluate aptitude of drivers. The first of its kind in Asia, the software provides hills, desert, forest, coastal, highway, city road driving under all weather and day and night conditions to be learned sitting in the simulator itself.

The cabins of simulators are of the same size as of a car and a bus. The simulators also provide real environment like dusk/dawn and nigh conditions affecting the visibility. The truck load is also increased to evaluate maneuvering skill of a driver. The simulators not only save fuel during training but also help reducing physical fears of those taking to the wheels first time.