Hit with a rising number of HIV/AIDS cases among its personnel, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has launched a toll free helpline to assist the victims and their relatives with timely information regarding AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
"The helpline will make the life of the jawans and their families safer and will go a long way in reducing stress levels in the force," said CRPF director general S.I.S. Ahmed.
"The unique combination of facilities on this helpline will make it popular and useful," he added.
According to data available with the ministry of home affairs, 200 paramilitary personnel have died of AIDS since 2004, including 27 this year.
Of the total number of victims, 75 died in 2004, 58 in 2005, 40 in 2006 and 27 in the first seven months of 2007.
While CRPF has lost 72 of its men during this period, 56 troopers from the Border Security Force (BSF) have lost their lives due to HIV/AIDS.
The helpline - jointly created by the CRPF's Wives' Welfare Association (CWWA) and Force AIDS Control Cell (FACC) - will also redress grievances of serving and retired personnel in this area.
The project has been launched with funds provided by Unaids. "The project will have six fully trained tele-counsellors to run the helpline, besides an interactive voice response system. These counsellors will have updated information on HIV, AIDS and welfare schemes of CRPF," said another top CRPF official.
"In the first phase the information on these issues will be available in English and Hindi," the official added.
The minister of state for home affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal had informed parliament that a total of 1,363 men in the paramilitary forces are currently suffering from AIDS.
Of them, CRPF has 521, and Assam Rifles 458. BSF has reported 239 HIV/AIDS cases, CISF 105, Indo-Tibetan Border Police 25, National Security Guard six and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) nine cases.