New Delhi: Health officials in Gujarat's Surat city have devised a new way to promote safe sex and curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS — they distributed condoms outside cinema halls screening illegal pornographic films.
The second largest city of Gujarat — also known as the 'diamond capital of the world' as 92 per cent of the world's diamonds are cut and polished here — is also a port city and has a large migrant population, who come to the city to work in its diamond and textile factories. .
This migrant population — comprising laborers and truck drivers — is considered highly vulnerable for the spread of HIV/AIADS and other sexually-transmitted diseases as they spend a lot of time away from their homes and are, therefore, considered more vulnerable to casual and unsafe sex.
Surat is dotted with numerous mini-theatres, which illegally screen porn films, targeted mostly at the migrant labourers. The cinemas charges just about Rs 20-30 a show, which a migrant worker can easily spare.
Health officials of Surat Municipal Corporation launched the drive about a year back in association with the textile and diamond businesses. The official say they zeroed in on these theatres as those watching the movies were found to be from the high-risk group.
Gujarat is not a high HIV/AIDS prevalence state, but latest data of National AIDS Control Organisation show there has been a significant rise in the number of AIDS cases in the state.
As part of the campaign, volunteers and NGO workers either hand out the condoms outside these theatres or sell them at ticket counters. Some theatres play out messages regarding safe sex on the back of the tickets and play out short films on the subject before the shows.
The social workers have also roped in small shops selling tobacco products outside the cinemas to make condoms easily available at any time of day.
"People now don't hesitate to buy condoms from the ticket counter or the tobacco shop," a health official told BBC recently. "They even come and talk to our social workers about sexually-transmitted diseases, seek advice on treatment and where to get it and now some of them even attend our group meetings."
Another NGO has taken it one step further and made condoms available at some barber shops as well.
(With agency inputs)