17 july 2012
Mumbai: As the world gears up for the International AIDS Conference in Washington starting Sunday,commercialsex workers (CSW) from Mumbai are readying to highlight a hiccup in the city’s fight against HIV/AIDS. The gentrification of red–light areas in Mumbai and the subsequent displacement and dispersal of CSWs have adversely affected their access toHIVcare andtreatment,they believe.
Greater government attention to displaced CSWs and a realistic rehabilitation policy are what a delegation of CSWs and transgenders will campaign for as they attend an allied conference of the global event in Kolkata. "Mobility among CSWs is anyway high and poses a challenge in HIV treatment in terms of following up on affected persons. Commercialization of realestatehasledtofurther displacementof many CSWs, alienating them from ART (anti– retroviral therapy) they were receiving," said Seema Sayyed, manager of Aastha Parivar, a conglomeration of 14 community–based organizations covering around 30,000CSWs.
While the government may claim its AIDS programme is far–reaching, there are many logisticalconcerns.CSWs,for instance, said they were forced to run from pillar to post due to the absence of identity cards or documentation. Besides, secondlineARTdrugs are availableonly in major cities, thereby alienating CSWs who are forcedoutof thecity.
The city’s traditional red–light area in Kamathipura, as well as pockets such as Charni Road and Grant Road, have seen a makeover with skyscrapers replacing dilapidated structures. Brothels that functioned from old buildings have closed or shifted,leading tothedispersalof workers.
Devta Maitri of NGO Asha Darpan said many young sex workers, who were rendered unemployed after the redevelopment of their kholis, were forced to return to their hometowns. "They got treatment in the garb of anonymity in Mumbai, but aren’t willing to disclose their status in their villages. They often prefer to shirk treatment," shesaid.
AIDS & REDEVELOPMENT
Kishore Kshirsagar, project dire ector of Mumbai District AIDDS Control Society, said: "Our job is to promote aw areness about HIV/AIDS and treatment and we are not c oncerned with redevelopment of buildings." He pointed out that ART tre atment was available free of cost across the country and people should fight stigma and avail of it