Cell phones raising HIV risks in India

The recent closings of hundreds of ancient brothels in India, while something of an economic victory for prostitutes, may one day cost them, and many others, their lives. The decentralization of prostitution has done little to curb demands for such services, which now is met on an ad hoc basis by individual prostitutes using cell phones to connect with clients. As reported in the New York Times:

“Millions once bought sex in the narrow alleys of Kamathipura, a vast red-light district here. But prostitutes with inexpensive mobile phones are luring customers elsewhere, and that is endangering the astonishing progress India has made against AIDS.

“’The place where sex happens turns out to be an important H.I.V. prevention point,’ said Saggurti Niranjan, program associate of the Population Council. ‘And when we don’t know where that is, we can’t help stop the transmission.’

“Cellphones, those tiny gateways to modernity, have recently allowed prostitutes to shed the shackles of brothel madams and strike out on their own. But that independence has made prostitutes far harder for government and safe-sex counselors to trace. And without the advice and free condoms those counselors provide, prostitutes and their customers are returning to dangerous ways.

“Studies show that prostitutes who rely on cellphones are more susceptible to H.I.V. because they are far less likely than their brothel-based peers to require their clients to wear condoms.”

For complete story, see “Cellphones Reshape Prostitution in India, and Complicate Efforts to Prevent AIDS.”

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