After a condom bar, it’s condom depots in Chandigarh

July 11th, 2008 - 11:10 am ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, July 11 (IANS) First, there was a condom bar to drive home awareness about safe sex. Now, social activists have established condom depots in slum clusters in and around Chandigarh to make the contraceptive available to vulnerable sections of society that are generally ignored in the awareness drives conducted from time to time to control HIV/AIDS.

Community-based condom depots for men and an active campaign to make women aware of female condoms are the new methods being adopted by activists to promote their use.

“The basic aim of these community condom depots is to reach the unreachable of society,” said an official of the Chandigarh AIDS Control Society.

The condom depots have turned out to be a big hit in Chandigarh and its periphery as they cater to the needs of people from the downtrodden sections of society who feel shy of going to a chemist to buy condoms.

The depots are located at places where most vulnerable sections of society live.

“I wanted to work at the grassroots level so I intentionally chose those people,” said Gaurav Gaur, a facilitator of the community-based condom depots.

“The depots are run by people like cycle mechanics, insurance agents, tea-stall vendors and grocers who come into contact with hundreds of people every day,” Gaur added.

Gaur runs six condom depots in the suburbs of Chandigarh near various slum colonies. Hundreds of condoms get picked up from all depots every week. The condoms, in turn, are provided free by Chandigarh’s AIDS Control Society.

“My clientele includes migrant labourers, truck drivers and even college-going students. Many commercial sex workers also come here,” said Deepak, a grocer who runs a condom depot in Mullanpur village on the outskirts of Chandigarh.

Siddharth Sethi, a student of Panjab University said it is easier to take free condoms from the depots than buying them from a chemist.

Apart from male condoms, those for women are also being promoted in a big way by organisations like NGO Yuvsatta that works for the betterment of commercial sex workers.

Yuvsatta volunteers regularly interact with around 850 sex workers in and around Chandigarh for their ‘Shakti’ (power) project to promote the use of female condoms, besides educating them about leading a healthy life-style and preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

“Our main aim is to promote female condoms among sex workers as a majority of HIV infections are due to unprotected sex. Thus there is an urgent need to devise new methods and means to promote female condoms,” Yuvsatta coordinator Parmod Sharma told IANS.

Due to lack of awareness and information, female condoms are scarcely found at chemist shops and government dispensaries. Yuvsatta volunteers carry these female condoms with them and distribute them during their one-to-one interactions and meetings with sex workers.

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