Times of India
05 July 2010
By Sunitha Rao R
Sarala (name changed), a 38–year–old HIVpositive sex worker, was trapped for more than 10 days at the Beggars’ Rehabilitation Centre at Sumanahalli. Her condition worsened after she didn’t get regular ART treatment despite repeated pleas, says the Sex Workers’ Union.
Following this, the Karnataka Sex Workers’ Union, with the support of human rights organizations, women’s groups, HIV–positive networks and sex workers’ units staged a protest in front of Beggars Colony.
"After getting calls to the crisis helpline, I visited the place. One can hardly call it a rehabilitation centre. I have got six sex workers released so far. But they were nabbed again and put in the Colony; one of them was HIV–positive. However, the colony doctor not only refused to treat her but also did not allow her to go to a hospital saying her being positive for HIV wasn’t proved before him," charged Tejaswini, convener of Karnataka Sex Workers’ Union.
The doctor said he’d send her for testing on Monday and then decide if she needed to go to a hospital. But her health was deteriorating and she needed urgent medical attention, said Tejaswini.
Human rights activist Manohar Elavarthi said: "The past four months has seen a rise in violence against sex workers within the city as well as on the outskirts. These women are homeless but they are not beggars. It is the duty of the government to provide them housing."
One Doctor For 1,700 Inmates
"We had no proof to say she was HIV–positive and we couldn’t conduct any test as the centre is not equipped with necessary equipment. We asked the protesting NGOs to take her out by giving an application in a letterhead or with permission from the tahsildar. But they did not do so. After the protest, they gave an application seeking her release. According to our doctor, her condition was not worse," said C N Manjegowda, president, Central Beggars’ Committee, that runs the Beggars’ Rehabilitation Centre.
"From now on, we will check HIV status when we take beggars. If found positive, we will refer them for further treatment immediately," he said. "Also, we have only one doctor to treat all 1,700 inmates and have no power to recruit doctors. The government has entrusted the healthcare of inmates to Karuna Trust, an NGO. I had discussed with the trust to appoint a gynaecologist for Beggars’ Colony, but the plea is yet to be addressed," said Manjegowda.
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