[VoxSpace Life] Sex Workers In Mumbai To Get Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) This World AIDS Day

HIV Positive Sex Workers In Kamathipura To Get Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) Centre By 1st December

This Friday, which is The World AIDS Day, the city of Mumbai is going to see some changes that are going to help in curbing HIV AIDS. Kamathipura, which is Mumbai’s largest red light district, is going to see the presence of a local antiretroviral therapy (ART) centre. This centre is being started by the Mumbai District Aids Control Society (MDACS) so that the sex workers of that locality can seek the treatment easily.

What Is The ART Treatment About?

ART is a medication that helps in the treatment of the HIV virus. It does not kill the virus or cure it but does help in controlling the growth of the virus. This, in turn, helps in slowing down the spread of HIV. This medication also helps in preventing the transmission of HIV. ART treatment uses the combination of a number of antiretroviral medicines which reduces the rate at which HIV makes copies of itself. Generally, more than 3 medicines are used together to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Why Does A Local Centre For Sex Workers Is The Need Of The Hour?

Currently, in order to get this treatment, the sex workers go to Nair and JJ hospitals every month.  These HIV-positive women, along with their partners, travel to these hospitals which are far away from where they work. This ends up affecting their business for the day and hence they do not feel like returning to these centres. The centres provide the workers with medication for one month, after which they tend to not return hence affecting their own health as well as the health of their customers.

In order to make these clinics more accessible to the workers, in a way that does not affect their day to day working, a local centre is going to be opened. Gaurav Eye Clinic, which is run by the BMC, is going to be turned into the ART centre for the workers.

The additional project director of MDACS, Dr Srikala Acharya, says

“Mostly by Dec 1, the ART centre would be ready for the sex workers in Kamathipura. Presently, around 300 sex workers are undergoing treatment at ART centres in Nair and JJ hospitals. After the construction of the centre, more number of people would come forward for regular treatment.”

The Struggles Faced In Providing Medication To Sex Workers

Ramdas Ovham, who is a member of an NGO that works for sex workers in Kamathipura, says,

“It is a struggle to convince them to continue the treatment. These ART centres provide medicines for a month. Once that course gets over, they avoid going to the centres again as it affects their business. So, we requested MDACS to start a centre in a brothel in the area.”

The NGO, Asha Mahila Sangha, has been working towards making sure that they return to the clinics to continue their treatments.

Ovham also stated another problem that takes place when it comes to getting the required treatment. The patients with HIV are given green cards but they often end up losing the cards that have been given to them. The implementation of this centre, however, is going to change that. The centre will register all the details of the sex workers as well as those of their partners. This will help in keeping track of all the HIV-positive workers as well as controlling the dropout rate for the treatment. Even if the workers do drop out from the treatment, it will be possible to trace them and convince them to re-join the treatment.

A sex worker from Kamathipura Subha Maitro says,

“We are daily wage earners, so we cannot afford to go to these hospitals for regular medicines and treatment as it is very time-consuming. These centres are always overcrowded as patients across the city come there. Even though we want the treatment, we cannot follow through with it. But the start of this centre might give us some ease.”

The increase in HIV awareness programs that are run by NGOs and the government have led to a decrease in the number of HIV-positive patients in the recent past. In the last 5 years, Maharashtra has seen a 47 percent decrease in the rate of HIV cases. According to Dr Acharya, this is because there has been an increasing awareness about practising safe sex. The establishment of the centre is hopefully going to further reduce the dropout rate for these treatments and is going to increase the awareness about HIV AIDs among the sex workers.