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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

Indian Sex Workers Hone Their Art of Love from Kamasutra to


Agence France Presse (08.11.03) - Friday, August 15, 2003

In India's eastern state of West Bengal, sex workers are studying the Kamasutra, the ancient Hindu treatise on sex, in an attempt to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS and other STDs.

The nongovernmental organization Institute of International Social Development last week began a six-month workshop in the state capital, Calcutta, instructing sex workers on how to minimize sexual contact with customers. "The workshop teaches sex workers erotic postures, the art of having sex without intercourse. We are calling it safe sex," said Rajyashree Chaudhuri, head of IISD.

According to Chaudhuri, who promotes condom usage in the city's red light district, the program began after sex workers complained of losing customers who were forced to wear condoms. "The erotica, mainly derived from the ancient Hindu book the Kamasutra, describes sexual union through 64 postures which offer ultimate sexual pleasure without intercourse," she said.

Initiated as an experiment, the workshop aims to change the behavioral patterns of sex workers as well as their customers. "We will assess the progress of the program after six months," Chaudhuri noted.

India recently announced a sharp rise in its number of HIV/AIDS cases, from 3.97 million cases in 2001 up to some 4.58 million at the end of 2002. Sachichidananda Sarkar, assistant director of the state-run West Bengal AIDS Control Society, said HIV cases were rising in the state. "Last year, more than 600 HIV cases were detected adding to the total of 1,140 cases across the state," said Sarkar, who noted that even when condoms were used in brothels they are often of poor quality and ineffective at checking the spread of STDs.

In Calcutta, home to 20,000 of the estimated 70,000 sex workers in West Bengal, the workshop is proving popular with the sex workers who attend the sessions during the day when business is slow.


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