Doctor Uses Kama Sutra to Help Sex Workers in India Fight Spread of HIV/AIDS
January 6, 2004
Dr. Sachchidananda Sarkar, head of the government's anti-AIDS program in India's West Bengal state, uses the Kama Sutra, an ancient Indian text, to encourage sex workers in Kolkata to "make the most of foreplay" and try to satisfy customers with little or no intercourse, which Sarkar said can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries that can spread HIV, the Los Angeles Times reports. In addition, Sarkar said that a client who is seduced with the traditional entertainment outlined in the Kama Sutra, including herbal oil massages or poetry reading, is less likely to resist a sex worker's request to use a condom. Sarkar has enrolled about 20 sex workers in a free, six-month course on the techniques, during which sex workers meet twice a week in local brothels. More than half of the sex workers in some cities in the two Indian states most affected by HIV/AIDS -- Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra -- are HIV-positive, and the epidemic is moving from high-risk groups to the general population, according to the United Nations. Dr. Kenneth Wind-Andersen, head of the UNAIDS program in India, said that although UNAIDS wants more evidence of the effectiveness of Sarkar's techniques, they are "worth a try -- and a thorough assessment," according to the Times. However, some public health experts call the idea that the Kama Sutra can make sex safer "wishful thinking," adding that the theory fails to address the realities of Kolkata brothels, according to the Times. "If it did, only song and dance would be going on there," Mrinal Kanti Dutta, program director of one of Kolkata's largest AIDS prevention projects, said. "I am making a compromise with the culture, science and technology and condom use -- holistically, so that they get the most benefits," Sarkar said, adding, "It's a difficult job for me, but I'm trying" (Watson, Los Angeles Times, 1/6).
Additional information on HIV/AIDS in India is available online as part of kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on HIV/AIDS.
Also available online is a kaisernetwork.org video feature on HIV/AIDS in India. The report -- prepared by Fred de Sam Lazaro, a correspondent for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer -- includes interviews with people who are on frontlines of India's efforts.
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.