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Truck Drivers, High Risk HIV/AIDS Group 

By Yerima Kini Nsom — Truck drivers and their associates including mechanics, who ply the Douala (Littoral)-Garoua-Boulai (East), have been identified as group with a very high HIV/AIDS prevalence. This revelation is part of the results of a study published in Yaounde last October 31.

A Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO, known as Moto Action, in collaboration with Total Foundation, the German International Cooperation, GIZ, Centre Pasteur of Cameroon and Institut Pasteur in France, carried out the study that lasted eight months. Presenting highlights of the study in a press conference at the Yaounde Centre Pasteur, the representative of the Total Foundation, Catherine Ferrant, said the study was their own bid to improve the lot of humanity.

An official of GIZ, Marc Ramaeken, said the study was aimed at enabling stakeholders to map out new strategies for sensitisation against the scourge. While presenting a summary of the study, Dr. Patrice Tchendjou said HIV/AIDS prevalence in the truck drivers stands at 16 percent. He said a majority of the 660 persons interviewed in the study, spend only 13 days a month in their permanent houses.

Only 40 percent of them, he went on, use condoms only when they are making love with sex workers. They would not care to use condoms when having sex with regular partners. The study equally reveals that a good fraction of the drivers interviewed; say they have sex with women they perceive as being clean without using condom. Each of the drivers has at least three sex partners along the Douala-Garoua-Boulai highway because local women see them as good business partners who pay very well for their services.

A circa 57 percent of those interviewed, the report reveals, are officially married while 23.8 percent of them are living with women they are not yet married to. Bachelors, widowers and divorcees make up 18.6 percent. Those who have permanent salaries constitute 63 percent, 33 percent of them consume marijuana, cigarette, alcohol and other drugs.

According to the authors of the report, 96.7 percent of the 660 persons interviewed said they have heard of HIV/AIDS mostly in the media. The study was carried out in the Littoral Region at the Texaco Petrol station near the airport, Yassa, Edea and the Douala seaport where the truck drivers usually park their vehicles.The drivers were also contacted in Ayos, Mbankomo, Awae in the Centre Region and Bonis, Mandjou,Boulambe Ntogo Gadima and Garoua-Boulai in the East Region.

It was revealed that those who are infected are suffering stigmatisation by colleagues who isolate them. Three out of four of the interviewees know where to do an HIV test but had very little knowledge about the modes of transmission and prevention. Drivers, who fall within the ages of 26 to 35 years, represent 39.4 percent of those interviewed. About 85.36 percent of them have attended at least primary school and at most Secondary school, while 13 percent of them are those who have not gone to school at all.

According to the authors of the study, it aimed at diagnosing the level of awareness, attitudes and practices of those concerned and seek ways of preventing sexually-transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS among the truck-drivers. Lauding the study, the Permanent Secretary at the National AIDS Control Committee, Dr. Elat Nfetam, observed that truck drivers, uniformed officers and sex workers have a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS infection in the country.

First published in The Post print edition no 01476

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