Bangladesh Eunuchs, Gays, Sex Workers Respond to Safe Sex Campaign
January 28, 2003
Bangladesh officials report that at-risk groups are slowly responding to safe sex campaigns. Arifa Sharmin, external relations manager of the U.S. non-governmental agency CARE, said that few people came to NGO-run drop-in centers last year, but numbers now average 35 sex workers and 25 drug users at the 10 centers in and around Dhaka each day. "Eunuchs, gays, and sex workers mostly lacked education ... but it appears that campaigns over the years are slowly yielding some results," she said.Adapted from:
"Sex workers in some brothels now try to convince their clients to use condoms, which is a good development to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases as well as AIDS," she noted.
"Our staff go around meeting people with 'stigmatized behavior' to advise, give booklets and provide health help in different districts," said an official with another NGO, the Bandhu Social Welfare Society.
A UN special envoy on AIDS, Nafis Sadik, said religious leaders could help educate people about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. The UN estimated about 13,000 people were HIV-positive in Bangladesh at the end of 1999.
Sharmin said Bangladesh was vulnerable to STDs and AIDS because of its porous border with India, where 4 million people have HIV. "We need to set up health posts," she said, "especially in those places where people regularly cross." She added that truck drivers were most prone to spreading STDs.
Another NGO, Confidential Approach to AIDS Prevention, offers HIV testing and has a 24-hour hotline for those at risk. Phone worker Ratema Rehana said many people, "including eunuchs and homosexuals, telephone us because they are shy to go to a doctor to ask questions or seek help," said Fatema Rehana.
Agence France Presse
01.20.03; Nadeem Qadir
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.