NGOs irked over arrest of sex workers to control AIDS

| 05 March 1997 22:21 IST

A strange method of arresting the commercial sex workers, adopted by the Goa government to tackle the alarming rate of HIV positive cases in the tourist state, has irked the local NGOs here.

It seems to be the outcome of recent visit to Goa by Mohini Giri, the chairperson of the National Commission for Women, who had actually demanded rehabilitation of over 2000 commercial sex workers in the port town of Vasco.

Conceding to the demand made by Dr Wilfred de Souza, the state's deputy chief minister, to provide funds for their rehabilitation, Giri had agreed to arrange a loan for it. But before any move could be made in this direction, the state authorities have raided the red light area.

Activists of Umed, the local NGO working against child prostitution, however declined to accompany the police during the raids on the grounds that not the unplanned raids but only comprehensive plan of rehabilitation would help them.

Dr de Souza in the meanwhile has asked for over two lakh deluxe condoms from the centre, with a plan to distribute around 3000 condoms every day in the red light area. But most of the sex workers have not been responding to it as the customers shy away from them out of fear of AIDS.

On the other hand, Dr I S Gilada, secretary of Indian Health Organisation, during his recent Goa visit stated that the World Bank has expressed displeasure over the fund operation as only 40 per cent of Rs 300 crore provided for AIDS awareness campaign has been utilised till date.

The IHO has started a BLUE clinic in Panaji since November, with facilities like testing, counselling, out-patient department and a eight-bed hospital. Around 1100 HIV positive cases have been detected so far, besides seven AIDS patients including a foreigner.

But Goa would have minimum 20,000 HIV positives, claims Dr Gilada, on the basis of detection rate found among the blood donors itself. Over 60 per cent cases detected in the BLUE clinic are from the Vasco red light area.

The state authorities however have been blowing off all the funds only on awareness campaign like leaflets, posters banners and even wall clocks while no steps have been taken to reach the illiterate commercial sex workers.

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