HIV/AIDS Prevention Among Female Sex Workers, Lahore, Pakistan

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: 422
Oral Presentation
Mariam ZAHID MALIK , Business Development, Contech International, Lahore, Pakistan
Iram SHAHZADI , Research Wing, Contech International Health Consultants, Lahore, Pakistan
Sarosh IQBAL , Business Development, Contech International, Lahore, Pakistan
Background: Although commercial sex is illegal in Pakistan, yet the number of FSWs[1]is increasing. Pakistan is almost in the grip of an Asian epidemic, where HIV/AIDS is spreading like a silent killer. One of its main reasons is the high rate of transmission among sex workers and their clients, due to lack of awareness, limited access to healthcare and preventing services, socio-cultural barriers and taboos.

Description: FSW Service delivery project to respond spread of HIV/AIDS was launched in collaboration with Punjab AIDS Control Program and Contech International in Lahore during 2012-13. Comprehensive package of HIV services and provision of sex-workers supportive environment were the key project interventions. DISH[2] Centers (including FSWs friendly-DICs[3]) established in high concentration areas of FSWs, focusing their typology including home, street, koti-khana and hotel-based FSWs. Extensive trainings were imparted to peer educators and counselors followed by refreshers and close monitoring. Vulnerable community network (VCN) was formulated by bring together more than 100 volunteer peer-educators. Innovative strategies including provision of Primary Health Care (PHC), STIs management, Inter-Personal Counseling sessions with 9,500 FSWs and Behavior Change Communication (BCC) interventions was applied for awareness and promotion of safe-sex practices. Moreover, law enforcement agencies, local GPs/CBOs, sex-workers network operators were also sensitized to create enabling environment. 

Challenges: Major challenges e.g. community and service-providers stigma regarding sex-workers, substantial use and limited access to healthcare services, availability of prevention commodities, HIV-testing, illegality of sex-workers and non-cooperative attitude of law agencies were addressed.

Conclusion:A mix of multiple interventions involving key stakeholders is beneficial to bring change in knowledge and behavior of community and vulnerable populations. Offering both outreach and drop-in services proved the best way of involving sex-workers and the services would be more effective with this coordinated approach.

[1] Female Sex Workers

[2] Drop in Special Health Centers

[3] Drop-in centers