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As part of a global initiative to improve women’s access to HIV prevention and treatment services, ICRW implemented a research study to expand the evidence base on access to services for two key populations in India: female sex workers in Pune, Maharashtra and wives of migrant men in Ganjam, Orissa. The main objectives of the research study were to explore barriers to HIV services experienced by the study populations, and based on the findings, to identify entry points for improving HIV services among women in India more broadly.
The importance of designing and implementing successful targeted interventions for sex workers as part of HIV prevention and control cannot be over-emphasised. In almost every country, sex workers comprise a focal point of the epidemic. They are the victims of discrimination, often violently intense, trafficking, legal persecution and societal ambivalence as well as one of the first occupational groups to become heavily infected. The infection passes from sex workers back to their clients and into the general population of women, men and children. One of the clearest public health lessons emerging from the HIV pandemic is that protecting the human rights of sex workers is an important means of prevention.