Tring! 1097 is a busy number these days.
Questions, mostly related to safe sex and from men, are pouring in at the helpline manned by Jharkhand State AIDS Control Society (JSACS).
The toll-free number, which operates from Ranchi sadar hospital, is open from Monday to Saturday (10am to 5pm) and receives over hundred calls per month.
The callers mainly seek information about the consequences of having unprotected sex after visiting brothels, how to go about taking tests and condoms. This apart, the counsellors, while answering queries of callers, also promote practices like the need to avoid sex with multiple partners and advocate use of condoms, sterilisation of needles, syringes and voluntary donation of blood.
“On an average, we receive 100 to 120 calls every month. The most common question is about consequences of unprotected sex. Almost all callers come up with this query. Many HIV victims even want to know whom they should approach for help,” said director of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) A.B. Siddique, also the project director of JSACS.
However, Siddique refused to divulge personal details of the callers. “It’s very difficult to tell about the age group of the callers. We receive calls from both men and women. However, a majority of them are men,” said the project director, adding that JSACS had identified 11,000 HIV-positive people.
A counsellor at sadar hospital, who did not want to be named, added that many men wanted to know from where they would get condoms. “We have provisions of free condom supply at sadar hospital and primary health centres,” she informed.
The counsellor further pointed out that male callers were forthcoming with their questions about unprotected sex et al while women were generally hesitant.
In Jharkhand, there are 50 Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres in all sadar hospitals, where too counsellors are available to address sex-related queries.