New Delhi: To try and reduce new cases of HIV/AIDS in India, a global charity has launched a free condom store in the country. India has the third highest number of HIV/AIDS cases in the world.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) says the initiative is the first of its kind. Organisations and individuals could place orders by phone or email to get a supply delivered to their doorstep, sidestepping any social taboos and quality issues, AHF adds.
21 lakh people across the country are infected with HIV, according to the United Nations, although the rate of infection is falling.
Condoms can be bought cheaply but sex workers and other vulnerable groups hesitate to purchase them from stores because of social taboos.
The government also distributes condoms for free through its health centres but activists say stocks are often unavailable or of poor quality.
“The funding for condoms is bad, it’s being cut around the world. We were getting desperate requests and it’s then we realised India needs its own condom store,” said Terri Ford, chief of global advocacy and policy at AHF.
“Condoms are the cheapest and the best way to prevent HIV infection so we were very upset about it (funding cuts),” she told AFP.
India’s AIDS programme has largely been successful but in 2014 the centre cut its share of funding, leading to a shortage of condoms and anti-retroviral drugs.
The government later restored the funding but vulnerable communities continue to be at risk of infection, as well as facing social stigma.
Last month, parliament passed the HIV/AIDS (Prevention and Control) bill, 15 years after it was introduced in the legislature, to safeguard the rights of sufferers and protect them from discrimination.