Sex workers lead HIV prevention in India
In the Indian state of Maharashtra, FHI 360 and its partners are working to reduce the incidence of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among sex workers by enlisting the participation of the sex workers themselves to accomplish this goal. Since 2004, more than 2,600 sex workers have been trained and mentored to become leaders of self-help groups. The groups have played a vital role in improving healthy behaviors among their peers and increasing use of community services. Aastha has reached more than 80,000 sex workers in Mumbai with comprehensive HIV prevention and care services. In 2011 alone, the project reached more than 27,500 individuals, who received more than 83,500 consultations for screening of sexually transmitted infections. And, it provided voluntary counseling and testing for nearly 17,000 individuals while also facilitating school admission for 121 of their children. The Aastha project is funded by the Avahan — the India AIDS Initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.