Posted by: lrrp | June 24, 2008

AIDS Threat for BPO Romeos

The sex epidemic in India especially among call center gals and guys is rising at astronomical heights.

AIDS threat is rising to India’s numerous call centers, where young staff are increasingly having unprotected sex with multiple partners in affairs developed during nights shifts, a top AIDS expert has warned.

While India has made great strides in bringing down its HIV inflection rate, the promiscuity among “Call center Romeos” is a great concern.

The sex activities take place during and after work hours in different places.

“Call centres are now seen as red-light districts,” said anthropologist Shiv Visvanathan.

Some guy who was asked about his Sex life in the call center told, “In the US, kids have affairs before marrying but here it’s seen as a sin. But that’s changing now,” added ruefully.

Groups of yound men and women rent apartments along the beach during the weekends and end up having multiple-partner sex.

Condom vending machines planned at BPOs, ATMs

After malls, multiplexes and pubs, the Mumbai District Aids Control Society (MDACS) is now eyeing the fast growing BPO industry and ATMs to install 3000 new condom vending machines.

The MDACS officials announced this at a Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) conference on business response to prevention, care and treatment for HIV/AIDS on Friday.

“BPO employees belong to the high disposable income group. Usually, all the employees working in this sector are young, mostly fresh out of the college and are from the economically productive age. It is very important to teach them about safe sex, HIV/AIDS during their induction period,” said Dr Harish Pathak, additional project director, MDACS.

The CII, along with the Washington-based World Bank Institute, is already targeting the IT sector across the country and sensitizing its against HIV/AIDS. “A countrywide study has been initiated in all IT and related sectors including the BPO industry. World Bank Institute has created a web portal where all the material is being uploaded,” said Ramnik Ahuja, advisor, health, CII.

The workplace policy with regard to HIV/AIDS came into effect three years back and companies are gradually shifting gears from awareness for their own employees to community participation.

The ILO has estimated that an average of 15 years of working life is lost for an employee affected by AIDS.

Fifty-five delegates from 45 companies and representatives from NGOs and the government participated in the discussion on various aspects of the HIV/AIDS policy for the industry and its implementation in companies that have not adopted it. Of the 5,000 member companies of the CII, only 700 have adopted the policy so far.

BPO employees urged to ‘play it safe’

Aids control society wants them to install condom vending machines in their office
BPO employees are notoriously known to be promiscuous, have access to easy money, and lead a good lifestyle. But if the Mumbai District Aids Control Society (MDACS) has anything to say, Mumbai’s call centres will be in the limelight for a different reason — Aids awareness programme.

The city’s HIV/Aids control body plans to approach BPOs in Mumbai and convince them to install condom vending machines in their office premises or restrooms.

“Most of the BPO employees are between the age group of 19-22 and may lack adequate knowledge about the virus or how it spreads. These youngsters are straight out of college and are more vulnerable. They need guidance and counselling,” said Dr Harish Pathak, additional project director, MDACS.

“We believe that apart from installing condom vending machines, BPOs should also educate their employees about safe sex techniques during their induction. This will help create more awareness among youngsters.”

On the other hand, BPO employees, though nonchalant about the proposal, are irked by the perception that they lead a promiscuous lifestyle. Prashant Karia, senior team manager of Stream International, said that the common belief that high income leads to moral degeneration was wrong.

“Employees working in BPOs are well educated and are old enough to know and understand the importance of safe sex. Also, there are several other sectors that also have high disposable income. So, it will be wrong to say that BPO employees are more vulnerable.”

Although the sentiment is shared by many others employees, Aviroop Choube, former employee of Wipro, welcomed the idea of having condom vending machines within the office premises. “It is partially right that huge salaries are slowly leading to moral degradation. But, there are many youngsters who work in the BPO due to necessity rather than luxury.”

Darshan Karker, former employee of Stream International, added, “Though I support the idea of having condom machines inside the office premises, I personally feel that imparting sex education during induction is a bad idea.”

MDACS, however, doesn’t plan to stop with BPOs. According to Phatak, they have already approached several banks to facilitate the installation of condom vending machines inside their ATMs. “We are planning to rope in ATMs that have more than 200 transactions per day. It will increase accessibility and assure privacy,” he added.

Not to be left behind, even the corporate sector is doing its bit to promote safe sex.  As many as nine corporate anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres have come up in different states in the last two years, with the most recent one being in Pune.

“These ART centres provide free medication to the patients. It is primarily meant for the community rather than the employees,” said Dr Ramnik Ahuja, health advisor, confederation of Indian industry (CII).

Also, about 998 companies under the CII have signed the workplace policy facilitating HIV/Aids positive employees. “At present, it is not necessary to disclose ones HIV status. But, gradually we want to introduce a culture, where people will go for the testing voluntarily,” she added.


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