Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reaching Them When They Move, Meeting Them When They Hide

Issue: Growing industrialization, increasing mobile men with money, strict administrative vigilance, disintegration of large brothels are pushing sex workers into widely scattered geographic areas including rural areas. Invisible soliciting is popularized through mobile phones, internets, escorts and other legally accepted entertainment services.

Project: Hotel, tourism, entertainment and transportation industries are not sufficiently engaged in current HIV projects. Punitive law against condom-carrying sex workers is hampering the region’s fight against AIDS. Modifying risky behavior of mobile clients is hugely challenging because of absence of appropriate outreach strategies and programs. Opportunities to propagate ‘safe sex’ messages through internet and mobile technology remain untapped. Current advocacy is not yet fully effective to modify the religious sensitivity and socio-cultural intolerance towards sex workers.

Results: Till now, only 20% of sex workers are estimated to have access to basic HIV prevention services in the region. Persistently high STI prevalence and low condom use are still prominent features including alarming increase of HIV transmission among sex workers in certain parts of SE Asia.

Lessons learnt: Strategies to reach indirect, mobile and hidden sex workers and address their issues are not sufficiently established in the current HIV projects of SE Asia, thus a large portion of sex workers are still being missed.
Sugata Mukhopadhyay

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