If you think IT is only for the white collar Indian urbanites, think again. Marginalised sex workers in the southern state of Karnataka are now swiping newly acquired smart cards to get discounts on daily purchases while keeping a check on HIV/AIDS.
"Now the sex workers are interested in renewing their cards every three months while keeping track of their expense patterns. The health record and status of any sex worker under the project will also be available at the click of a mouse in computers which have smart card terminals."
approach will help us prevent STIs."
This pilot project began in July in the two districts at the initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in association with Canada's University of Manitoba. Sushena Reza Paul, assistant professor at the university, said it could be replicated across India if it proved successful.
Sonagachi's HIV/AIDS prevention project has been selected as a model for a $200 million programme by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in six Indian states, including Karnataka.
Mrinal Kanti Dutta, former head of an HIV/AIDS prevention project in the Sonagachi red light district, said the smart card approach could become Air Max Ice Pack a powerful weapon to fight infections among sex workers in a country in which the sex industry is one of the biggest factors behind the spread of AIDS.
Reza Paul said the sex workers were initially given ID numbers, which they easily forgot. Then they were issued health cards, but they didn't attach much value to them.
"We want the sex workers to ultimately use the smart card like an ATM card to deposit their earnings in the bank and produce it before the police like an Air Max 95 Slate On Feet
Sujoy Dhar is a special correspondent with Indo Asian News Service. This article is part of a series commissioned by AlertNet from alumni of Reuters Foundation HIV/AIDS reporting courses.
A pioneering new scheme in India's red light districts helps prostitutes keep tabs on their HIV status, reports Sujoy Dhar.
National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) Director General Sujata Rao too has shown interest in the project.
"It was then that we thought of using IT solutions to get them interested in periodic health check ups for HIV/AIDS prevention by issuing cards that would also entitle them to get discounts on daily purchases. The economic benefit of the card will prompt them to get periodic health check ups, failing which the card cannot be renewed.
interest) in various government saving schemes," said Dutta, who is now helping sex workers in Karnataka to replicate the Sonagachi model.
"We are planning to write to Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram so that sex workers holding smart cards are given preferential treatment like senior citizens (who get 1 percent more Air Max Glow In The Dark Pack
Chip cards help Indian sex workers fight AIDS
About 500 sex workers in Mysore and Mandya districts of Karnataka now have cards containing tiny microprocessors that not only regularly prompt them to screen for sexually transmitted infections but also get money off items from groceries to perfumes.
identity card to avoid harassment," Reza Paul said. "The multi sectoral Air Max Women
"When we started the STI prevention programme and issued health cards to the majority of illiterate women here, who are not brothel based like Kolkata's Sonagachi red light area, we found that follow up is a big problem," said Reza Paul, who is also an advisor to Ashodaya Mahila Samannaya Samity, a sex workers' organisation. "They come from villages and go back and there are several girls of the same name."
"We contacted their preferred vendors from whom they buy their daily groceries, sari, refreshments and make up. Then we sat with a software company and we merged the health card with a smart card.
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