In this study, a large number of truck drivers were found to be having sex with the prostitutes in rural areas along the highways of India. Some were having sex with men also. HIV/AIDS awareness and condom use was poor among them. Three out of 302 truck drivers were found to be infected with HIV. The truck drivers could play an important role in the spread of the infection in rural India.
PIP: Data on HIV risk behavior, condom use, and HIV/AIDS awareness were obtained through a survey and interviews with 200 randomly selected truck drivers, 21 highway prostitutes, and 27 male prostitutes in Delhi and nearby areas during October 1990-December 1990. 302 randomly selected truck drivers were tested for HIV infection; none of the highway prostitutes consented to the HIV antibody test. A survey was again conducted among 100 randomly selected truck drivers in November 1991 and November 1992 to assess the levels of current HIV awareness and risk behavior. The drivers were aged 20-40 years, wayside prostitutes aged 32-40 years, and part-time male prostitutes aged 16-34 years. 60% of the drivers were married with families, as were all of the wayside prostitutes, and none of the male prostitutes. 78% of drivers admitted having multiple heterosexual partners, including prostitutes, and 5% admitted to regular homosexual sexual encounters. Only 20% of the drivers in 1990, however, had heard about HIV/AIDS. 25% of this subgroup was aware that HIV may be transmitted sexually, 28% of promiscuous drivers used condoms regularly, none admitted taking IV drugs, 35% reported histories of either urethral discharge or genital ulcers, and 3 of the 302 men tested were found to be infected with HIV. None of the 21 highway prostitutes had heard about AIDS, although 21 of the 27 male prostitutes had. All highway prostitutes admitted having at least one episode of unprotected sex with their sex partners in the previous fortnight, while all of the male sex workers would allow unprotected sex if their partners desired. Some male prostitutes were also paid blood donors. None of the prostitutes consented to having an HIV antibody test. The authors note that while HIV awareness improved in subsequent years, the practice of safe sex did not. 42% and 56% of the drivers had heard about HIV/AIDS in 1991 and 1992, respectively, but 77% and 68% were nonetheless engaging in occasional unprotected sex. Truck drivers engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse with multiple partners in rural India could be major vectors of HIV infection.