A Convention of Female Sex workers, Andhra Pradesh
Hyderabad 13 December 2011 (Hyderabad Deccan News) : For over a decade, sex workers have been playing a remarkable role in preventing HIV/AIDS in Andhra Pradesh through Targeted Interventions (TIs). A key thrust of the National AIDS Control Programme-III has been the scaling up and strengthening of community-led TIs for effective HIV/AIDS prevention among vulnerable populations.
Presently, 169 TIs for vulnerable populations - Female Sex Workers (FSW), Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), Transgender (TG) and Injecting Drug Users (IDU)- are being implemented in Andhra Pradesh by AP State AIDS Control Society (APSACS), Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (HLFPPT) and the India HIV/AIDS Alliance.
Of them, 137 TIs are providing HIV/AIDS prevention services to 1, 60,000 sex workers across Andhra Pradesh. More importantly, 15 of these TIs are directly managed by Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) of sex workers with more than 3,000 sex workers in 23 districts dedicating their services for effective HIV/AIDS prevention. They are not only empowering themselves and reducing their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS but are also protecting public health by educating the general population, especially their clients belonging to all sections of the society.
Since remarkable progress has been made in community mobilization and advocacy in TIs across all interventions, there is need to develop solidarity among the CBOs of sex workers and encourage cross sharing of experiences among progressing and promising groups of FSWs.
"Swecha Sammelanam," a day- long get-together of CBOs of female sex worker is a state level event that is being organized to provide female sex workers with an opportunity to collectively voice their opinions to key stakeholders and to create a platform for CBOs of sex workers to share their experiences, learnings and key successes in helping society to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The Project Director of AP State AIDS Control Society, Sri C Partha Sarathis said, "Due to the programmes taken up in Andhra Pradesh, especially with the active involvement of sex workers and other vulnerable populations, we have been successful in reducing the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS from 1.69% in 2004 to 0.77% as per 2010 the Sentinel Surveillance Study. This was possible only because of the consistent efforts made by sex workers through their CBOs over the last decade along with other initiatives. But incidences of stigma, discrimination and violence towards these marginalized populations is still a major barrier for HIV/AIDS prevention. Since our Constitution gave equal rights to all, each of us have the responsibility of creating enabling environments where they can not only avail their rights but also access all entitlements and services."
The state network of sex workers Ushassu President Devi said, "Our Network and CBOs have been successful in not only educating 90% of the sex workers about HIV/AIDS but have also motivated them to adopt prevention methods. We are finding that our main challenge is addressing stigma and discrimination and violence towards sex workers. We want to strive more to protect our rights."
The event is being organized by the AP State AIDS Control Society in collaboration with Ushassu, District CBOs, Care India, Heroes Project, 365X6, HLFPPT, India HIV/AIDS and he Centre for Advocacy and Research. About 2,500 sex workers representing 150 CBOs from all districts of Andhra Pradesh are participating in this event.
Key officials from the National AIDS Control Organization and APSACS and representatives of State Lead Partners, NGOs will be participating in the event. The event consists of an official meeting, cultural competitions and programmes and prizes distribution. Exhibition stalls also are being organized in the premises where the event is being held.