UNAIDS Executive Director joins Chief Minister to launch Learning Site on HIV and sex work in Bangalore, India
12 October 2009
In Bangalore earlier today, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé joined the Chief Minister of Karnataka, B.S. Yediyurappa at the official launch of the Ashodaya Academy – the first learning site on HIV in the Asia-Pacific region run entirely by sex workers. The Chief Minister welcomed the opening of the centre in Mysore, which begins its first HIV training course with over 200 sex workers from Ashodaya, as well as participants from as far away as Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar and Nepal.
In the midst of the humanitarian crisis you are facing, your support for HIV is a special sign of your leadership and commitment to poor and vulnerable people without a voice.
Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director
Michel Sidibé praised the commitment of the Chief Minister for taking time out from the ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts of flood-hit Karnataka. "In the midst of the humanitarian crisis you are facing, your support for HIV is a special sign of your leadership and commitment to poor and vulnerable people without a voice," said Mr Sidibé.
“It’s a proud moment for us and we have come together to fight the spread of HIV,” said Prathima, a sex worker from in Mysore.
Ashodaya Samithi, an association of sex workers in Mysore also expressed their appreciation that Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa had taken the time to attend the opening and offered his public support to them. The association of sex workers made a donation to the Government of Karnataka of 50,000 rupees, which their organization had collected in support of flood relief efforts.
The Chief Minister expressed how deeply he was touched by the charitable donation, saying that a donation of this size from them meant more to him than a donation 10,000 times larger from wealthy sources.
An outstanding example of one community supporting their brothers and sisters in another community in time of emergency and need.
Charles Gilks, UNAIDS Country Coordinator
UNAIDS Country Coordinator Charles Gilks said that the donation symbolized even more than its monetary value, representing “an outstanding example of one community supporting their brothers and sisters in another community in time of emergency and need.”
Karnataka has a relatively advanced HIV epidemic. The state is the second highest prevalence state in southern India with the adult HIV prevalence in several districts exceeding 1% for the past 9 years. Sex work is a key factor in HIV transmission in Karnataka. Mapping exercises have estimated there are more than 64,000 female sex workers in urban areas, and 61,000 in rural areas.
Outreach to these sex work communities is a vital part of the AIDS response in this region. The Ashodaya Academy will build the capacity of organizations to improve and develop community-led approaches for educating sex workers about HIV and it is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Manitoba and the Asian Development Bank in partnership with UNAIDS.