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Mobile Clinic For Sex Workers In Pune

A special clinic on wheels is being launched for sex workers in Pune that would provide AIDS counseling and treatment for sexually transmitted// disease along with blood test facilities all for free of cost.

A mobile clinic that would provide blood test facilities, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS counselling to thousands of sex workers for free is being launched here in April.

A non-governmental organisation (NGO), Vanchit Vikas, which runs six static clinics across Pune, would launch this unique round-the-clock clinic that would have two doctors, two assistants, a counsellor and a peer educator.

"A lot of sex workers are hesitating to come to the static clinics and we hope this initiative will help in reaching out to them. It will not only give them free condoms but also advise them on safe sex practices," said Laxmi Mali, a senior doctor working in one such clinic in Budhwar Peth.

"Since, these people have less societal acceptance, these women and trans-genders never go to any hospital like normal people. In the process, they inherit sexually transmitted diseases, which in many cases lead to accumulating HIV positive virus", Mali, who is also the clinic manager, told IANS.

"The marginalised women have to play a greater role in curbing AIDS in the country and we hope the new initiative would also help thousands of sex workers to understand their role for a healthy society."

Added Abhijit Sonawane, another doctor of the clinic: "As static clinics are closed by 6 p.m, many sex workers do not get time to come for check up. But now they can avail themselves of the facility any time they feel like."

"Moreover, the clinic will reach their doorsteps," he said.

The NGO, which works in collaboration with the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) claims that it distributes around 200,000 condoms every month at a subsidised rate. "Besides, we have pro vided health facilities to over 2,000 sex workers in last one year," said Sonawane.

Pune has around 8,000 sex workers including over 4,000 in the infamous Budhwar Peth area in the heart of the city.

While India is home to around 5.1 million HIV positive people, Maharashtra alone has over 500,000 HIV positives.

Officials said they would also target railway stations, localities adjacent to the airport and corporate areas where a large number of sex worker operate during the night.

However, names of the patients would be kept secret.

"Every patient is very important to us and we would never disclose their identity. Like static clinics all patients would get an identity number and through that they will maintain their health record and the progress report," Mali said.

--Edited IANS

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