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World AIDS Day 2005: Hookers, truckers and AIDS

Sex workers, truck drivers, storemen and port workers now all have access to information, counselling on HIV and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases where and when they need it most, thanks to an innovative new project.

The project was launched by WFP and partners TNT, the global mail, express and logistics company; the Swedish International Development Agency; and the Malawian Ministry of Health.

Border crossing

In response to the dramatic food crisis currently gripping Malawi, trucks contracted by WFP are among the dozens of heavy vehicles that queue up every night at the Mwanza border crossing to pass customs clearance.

Mwanza is the busiest border crossing, handling 70 percent of all road freight into Malawi.

Since January, some 600 WFP trucks have crossed the border on their way to and from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Pit Stop

“Long nights, young men far from home, and an abundance of poor young women makes this a perfect location for HIV to spread – and an ideal place to intervene to stop it.

"That is why Mwanza was the first place WFP and its partners chose to install the ‘Muyende Bwino Pit Stop’, the first Wellness Centre in Malawi,” said Dom Scalpelli, WFP Country Director in Malawi.

Life-saving information

AIDS has cut a huge swathe through Malawian society. The effects of the pandemic have been truly catastrophic
Dom Scalpelli, WFP Country Director
Conscious of the possibility that its own transport workers might be contributing to the spread of HIV, WFP and TNT established the Wellness Centres as a way to give truckers – and the communities they pass through – access to life-saving information on how to avoid contracting HIV and passing it on to others.

Treatment for minor ailments and sexually transmitted diseases is also available, in addition to referrals to voluntary counselling, testing and treatment for HIV. The centres are open when their clients need them most.

Relief operation

WFP is mounting a relief operation in Malawi to reach more than 4 million people no longer able to feed themselves as a result of drought and the government’s dwindling ability to cope as farmers, workers and civil servants continue to succumb to the deadly AIDS pandemic.

One in every seven adults in the country is HIV positive.

“AIDS has cut a huge swathe through Malawian society. In a country where poverty is endemic and drought a regular feature of rural life, the effects of the pandemic have been truly catastrophic,” Scalpelli said.

Major transport provider

WFP is a major transport provider to poor countries – including 21 of the 25 countries worst-affected by AIDS.

With more than 5,000 trucks carrying food to hungry people in more than 80 countries, plus countless workers in ports, warehouses, railways and airports, its contractors and staff work along the corridors where HIV rates are among the highest in the world.

And since they travel to some of the most remote places in the world, they can contribute to the spread of the disease. HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness activities are provided to all of WFP’s staff worldwide, and offered to transport workers in places like Ethiopia and Myanmar.

Healthy for longer

WFP offers assistance to families affected by HIV and AIDS in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Its food and nutritional support helps keep people with HIV healthy for longer.

Good nutrition ensures that antiretroviral treatment is most effective, keeping people alive for longer and preventing mothers from passing the virus to their babies. Food helps children from families where a parent is sick or has died from AIDS related causes to stay in school.