Melinda Gates Meets Indian Sex Workers, Discusses AIDS Prevention Programs
January 26, 2004
On Sunday, Melinda Gates visited Sonagachi, a rundown area with some 6,000 prostitutes in north Calcutta, and discussed HIV/AIDS control programs with sex workers. In a small hall, Gates met with nearly 40 sex workers who talked about their lives as security guards restrained a surging crowd of journalists and onlookers.Adapted from:
"We live in rat-infested rooms that double as home and work space. We want a better environment for our children where they are not harmed by the effects of our trade," Pushpa Sarkar told Gates. Another woman, Sadhya Roy, spoke of the heartbreak she endures from her son's mistreatment at school because he is the son of a sex worker.
Gates watched a play staged by a group of prostitutes and their children depicting women as the targets of violence and exploitation. "They are lots like all women around the world. They have the same concerns, same values and worries for their children," Gates later told the Associated Press.
The Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given $200 million to fight HIV/AIDS in India, where an estimated 4.6 million people, or 0.9 percent of adults, have the disease. "India hangs in balance so far as AIDS is concerned," said Gates, adding that the country's largest hurdle is a lack of awareness and social stigma. "Social stigma is still an enormous issue, but pockets of people are speaking out, and it's fundamental to back them," she said.
01.25.04; Nupur Banerjee