In an initiative to combat HIV infection among its cadres, the Border Security Force (BSF) is introducing free condom counters in every border outpost along West Bengal's international boundary.
The counters are part of the Project Prahari initiative launched in collaboration with the state AIDS control society and UNDP's REACH programme to combat HIV/AIDS among BSF troopers.
"We are setting up these condom counters in each and every BOP (border outpost) in West Bengal, catering to about 30,000 troopers," said BSF Deputy Inspector General(East) S.K. Mitra.
"A trooper who wants to have sex can avail of the facility without accounting for it," Mitra, chief nodal officer of the project, told IANS.
"We are pragmatic about dealing with the virus. BSF men who are away from families for long periods can't avail of leave at their will because of national concerns."
He said certain conditions made them prone to the infection and a few of the troopers were found to be HIV positive.
The BSF's effort was to offer them moral support and tell them that it was not the end of the road and they could work just like their non-infected comrades, he said.
"We are also sensitising wives of the BSF men about the virus and its dangers. Besides, we are taking our awareness programme to the population in remote border areas where medical facilities and awareness level are poor."
HIV-AIDS was now a compulsory subject in the BSF training programme for new recruits.
The first phase of Project Prahari launched in March this year is almost over. It mainly focused on advocacy, capacity building, printing of training material and making a film.
"Now we will sit in September first week to chalk out our activities for the next six months. Because of the huge success of the programme we want to take it to our teenagers, especially those from upper classes, who are extremely prone to infection," Mitra said.