BENGALURU:More than 90 per cent of HIV transmission in Karnataka is through unprotected sex and hence targeted interventions in groups with high number of sexual partners is the most effective way of checking the spread of infection.Though in 2014 there were 126 partner NGOs targeting high-risk groups, it has come down to 76. The state AIDS control society’s budget has come down from Rs 100 crore in 2014 to Rs 67 crore in 2017.
According to Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society, there are 86,417 female sex workers registered with them and 27,963 men-who-have-sex-with-men. With reduced grants from National AIDS Control Organsation, the number of peer educators have been reduced and services rendered by them less effective.
Services provided by partner NGOs included behaviour change communication (counselling), distributing free condoms and lubes, taking sex workers for treatment of sexually transmitted infections, HIV and Syphilis testing once every six months, and care and treatment if found HIV positive.
Nisha Gulur, Karnataka Sex Workers Union treasurer, said, “Outreach workers have not received salaries for 10 months. Distribution of condoms has stopped and they are no longer taking workers to integrated counselling and testing centres once every six months. Two years ago, in one targeted intervention (TI), there would be four outreach workers and 16 peer educators. Now, there are two workers and four peer educators. One educator has to reach out to 100 clients.”
Pushpalatha R, project director, Swathi Mahila Sangha, Malleswaram, said, “Payment of Rs 52 lakh is pending from KSAPS since 2012. Previously, a doctor was given Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000. Now, it has reduced to Rs 15,000. Which doctor will render his services for that sum? Previously, workers were taken for sexually transmitted infections treatment once in three months, now it is six.”
Shashidharan K, joint director, targeted intervention, KSAPS, told Express that the reduced grants haven’t impacted activities. “We have merged four TIs into one to save on office space rent and staff salaries. Previously, TI got Rs 32 crore. Now it gets Rs 22 crore. Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, Clinton Foundation and many other organisations would previously lend support ... now all have ceased except the World Bank.”
“We have optimised our services by focussing on high volume sex workers. In 2014, we were reaching out to over one lakh sex workers and now only 86,000-odd workers because a lot of them are old (above the age of 40). We are prioritising newer sex workers though our spending on each worker has reduced from Rs 1,800 to Rs 1,600.”