No girl power in India
A 1994 act, ironically dubbed the
Protection of Commercial Sex Workers, required the Indian state of
Maharashtra to brand red-light-district women with HIV with
indelible ink. Last winter the state implemented its second punitive
policy when it ordered boarding houses -- filled with underage girls
"rescued" from raided brothels -- to conduct HIV tests on roomies
within 48 hours of their arrival. Those with HIV are transferred to
a government-run institution where they get "appropriate care and
treatment without their knowledge," said the state's Department of
Women and Child Welfare.
The girls have little power to oppose HIV surveillance. Many flee
the boarding houses to avoid forced testing and then "go back to the
brothels because nobody else will have them," said Indian AIDS
advocate Ashok Row Kavi. "Why isolate prostitutes? They have no
negotiating power to use condoms. Only behavior change among male
clients can reduce the rate of infection."
India has the world's highest incidence of HIV. Of its 950
million people, as many as five million may have HIV.