Medical Daily (06.16.2013)
A study by Dr. Prabhat Jha, a public health professor at the University of Toronto, and colleagues showed that HIV prevention programs for female sex workers in southern India resulted in a reduction in incidence of HIV as well as sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The study examined the impact of more than 868 prevention programs for female sex workers from 1995 to 2008. The programs provided sex workers with lubricated condoms and STI treatment. The country’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) sponsored and carried out many of the programs, but nongovernmental organizations also provided funding in some areas.
The researchers estimated that programs reached approximately 500,000 sex workers, most of whom lived in the four southern and western states: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. Only 30 percent of the population lives in these states, but they account for 60 percent of the country’s HIV patients.
Researchers reviewed data on STI trends in pregnant women ages 15–24, regardless of their status as sex workers. The results showed that HIV levels fell by 40 percent in young pregnant women between 2003 and 2008. Jha and colleagues also found that syphilis rates fell by 70 percent in pregnant women during the same period. The researchers reviewed financial data to determine spending on programs. India’s NACO spent approximately $420 million since 1999 on prevention programs for sex workers and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $250 million since 2004. However, results showed no correlation between funding and disease rates. Researchers concluded that programs did not have to be expensive to be effective.
The full report, “Female Sex Work Interventions and Changes in HIV and Syphilis Infection Risks from 2003 to 2008 in India: A Repeated Cross-Sectional Study, was published in the journal BMJ Open (2013; 3:e002724 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002724).