Violence, HIV and female sex workers in Karnataka State, India – Mohan H.L. & Dr Tara Beattie

Female sex workers (FSWs) frequently experience violence and harassment by the police and their clients, as well as arrests. What is the impact of such violence on the women’s HIV risk? And can community interventions mitigate this impact?  

Beginning in 2003, the Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT), in partnership with the University of Manitoba (UoM), implemented a large-scale, comprehensive HIV prevention programme for more than 60,000 FSWs in Karnataka State, south India. This was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as part of the larger India AIDS Initiative (Avahan) programme, and included components to address key structural drivers of HIV vulnerability, including poverty, violence and police arrest.  

Declines in violence, police arrest and alcohol use among female sex workers in Karnataka state, south India, following the India Avahan HIV prevention programme 

This webinar describes the violence reduction interventions within the Avahan intervention, discusses the findings and outlines costing analyses. The data come from serial integrated behavioural and biological assessment (IBBA) surveys (in four districts) and anonymous polling-booth surveys (PBS) (in 16 districts) conducted with random samples of FSWs.

Findings suggest that violence exposure and police arrest are both strongly associated with HIV and STI prevalence. In addition, the data suggest that the programme was successful in reducing violence against FSWs and police arrest, as well as reducing HIV and STI prevalence over time (2005–2011).

Taken together, this data suggests that large-scale, comprehensive HIV prevention programming can reduce violence, arrests and HIV/STI infection among FSWs. 

Mohan H.L. is a social scientist, Senior Technical Advisor for programmes, communications and community interventions and Managing Trustee of KHPT.  

Dr Tara Beattie is a social epidemiologist working within the Social and Mathematical Epidemiology (SaME) group and the Gender Violence and Health Centre (GVHC) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).  

Read the Samvedana Plus Baseline Survey Tool -  13 item survey based on the World Health Organization (WHO) questionnaire to measure violence exposure.

Download the pdf of the presentation here.

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