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International News

Charity Fuels Hopes of Bangladesh Sex Workers

June 14, 2004

CARE Bangladesh, working closely with several nongovernmental organizations, operates a program to educate sex workers about condom use and to teach literacy and job skills. Begun in 1995 with brothel workers, the campaign has widened to include sex workers who solicit in the streets or work out of hotels, those who are transgender, men who have sex with men, drug users and dock and transport workers. CARE spends $320,000 a year on its activities countrywide. The program raised the rate of condom use in one brothel in Tangail to 86 percent compared to 3 percent five years ago. From its origins in Tangail, the effort has expanded to include programs in 29 of the nation's 64 administrative districts.

"Our aim is to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among highly vulnerable groups like sex workers," said Frank Boeren, assistant country director of CARE Bangladesh, adding that the program has created a "spark of hope and solidarity" among the sex workers, but still has a long way to go.

Health officials warn that Bangladesh faces a high HIV/AIDS risk due to widespread poverty, illiteracy and lack of awareness. Although HIV prevalence is still relatively low in the predominantly Muslim country, Nazrul Islam of Dhaka's Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University said neighboring countries such as India have a large number of confirmed cases, and Bangladeshis are at risk when they travel abroad for work and have sex while away. Health officials said injectable drugs and blood transfusions from professional donors are also spreading HIV/AIDS.

A recent UNAIDS and World Health Organization survey found at least 13,000 Bangladeshis with HIV/AIDS and 650 dead from HIV/AIDS since 2001. Government statistics, however, show only 363 people infected, 57 confirmed with AIDS, and 30 dead.

Back to other news for June 14, 2004

Adapted from:
06.10.04; Mustak Hossain

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Sex Workers & HIV/AIDS