Giving a fillip to the fight against AIDS, about 10,000 commercial sex workers from Mumbai and Pune will meet here Wednesday to relate their experiences and highlight their contribution to spreading awareness about the disease.
The gathering at the Bandra-Kurla Complex in suburban Mumbai, expected to be attended by Hollywood star Richard Gere, is not a political rally but a new development in the fight against AIDS, say the organisers.
For once, these sex workers, normally pushed to the shadows while clandestinely plying their trade, will talk openly about their work in the backdrop of AIDS.
The meet, jointly organised by a host of NGOs including the Bill Gates Foundation, Family Health International and Mumbai District AIDS Control Society, will give the women the chance to talk about their participation in AIDS awareness projects across the city and Maharashtra.
The meet will not only recognise but also highlight the work done by commercial sex workers to prevent AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases,' said Rajeev Jerajani of Constella Future, an advocacy consultancy taking part in the meeting.
'Groups of sex workers will be formally recognised for their help to AIDS prevention groups in creating awareness about the disease,' he added.
According to health workers, growing awareness about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases among sex workers has led to a marked decline in new infection rates in the city.
Not only has the infection rate dropped, but the number of prostitutes in the city too has fallen, a consequence of the AIDS toll, said I.S. Gilada of Peoples' Health Organisation (PHO).
The infection rate - 1.3 percent - is now the same as it was in 1993. It is indeed a big decline from 2.1 percent of 1993, Gilada told IANS.