4 January 2013

Gambia: Truck Drivers Sensitised On HIV/Aids, Others

Photo: Judith Basutama/IRIN
Burundi returnees from Tanzania alighting from the trucks that brought them back to their country.

A two-day sensitisation training for long distance truck drivers on HIV & AIDs, nutrition and road safety recently ended at TANGO conference Hall, along Bertil Harding Highway.

Organised by the World Food Programme (WFP), the training was designed to remind long distance truck drivers about the existence of HIV & AIDS as they travelled for hours and days away from their families, which might engage them in risk behaviour leading to infections.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Victoria Ginja, the WFP's country representative, said that with WFP as the leading UN system logistics agency, they work closely and hand-in-hand with truck drivers to provide vulnerable communities with food assistance during critical moments and reaching the most remote areas of the country.

"Therefore, we consider that drivers play a crucial role and are partners in the fight against hunger. In this light, I am delighted to inform you that nutrition and road safety components are included in the training to be undertaken," she stated.

She said that through partnership with North Star Alliance and other stakeholders, WFP takes it upon itself to equip truck drivers with relevant and timely information. "You are part of the logistics network," he added.

She urged participants to visit the North Star Wellness Centre in North Bank Region that provides transport workers with primary health care services including counseling and testing and other sexually transmitted infection treatment.

For his part, Ousman Badjie of the National Aids Secretariat said that research has found highest incidences of HIV & AIDS infection along corridors where there is a high turnover of truck drivers, migrant workers, commercial sex workers and local population living in proximity of roads and transport construction sites.He noted that infection rates are very high at border crossings where transport workers can be subjected to lengthy delays.

Badjie informed the gathering that long distance truck drivers often have inadequate access to health education, thus, may lack basic information about HIV and AIDs. "Assessments have regularly highlighted the need for provision of information and services relating to HIV and AIDs to migrant workers like long distance truck drivers," he added.

He further dilated on the significance of mobility and land transport, saying it facilitates services as a catalyst for socio-economic advancement. He noted that many studies have shown a correlation between the availability of transport and spread of HIV and AIDs. "This is due to the fact that when roads and bridges are built, they link low and high HIV prevalence areas such as villages and cities, domestically but also internationally," he stated.

He maintained that the road network makes it possible for different subpopulation to interact at key points such as transient centres and ferry crossing points among others.

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