Female sex workers (FSWs) have considerable unmet sexual & reproductive health (SRH) needs due to their occupations and social marginalization.
They are discouraged from accessing SRH services due to stigma and discrimination, negative attitudes of healthcare providers, and fear of clients, law enforcement, and people opposed to sex work.
Evidence, both global and national, has shown that linking HIV and SRH services provide a valuable impetus to encourage uptake of prevention, treatment, and care and support services, especially by people living with HIV (PLHIV) and key populations, including FSWs. With this approach in mind, Alliance India with funding support from MAC AIDS Fund has initiated a pilot programme Abhaya – meaning ‘fearless woman’ in Hindi – for FSWs in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.
Abhaya expands access to complementary SRH services, including basic information, counselling, referrals and linkages to facilities providing required services. In addition, Abhaya builds the capacity of healthcare providers to address the specific needs of FSWs. Abhaya also engages in advocacy with the government to identify opportunities to adapt and scale up expanded access to SRH services for FSWs.
Abhaya gives a significant role to FSWs in the implementation of the programme at all stages to increase ownership and the potential for sustainability of the initiative. Over the first two pilot years, the programme will reach 4,500 FSWs and their partners, helping them better identify their SRH needs and access quality services thus empowering them to protect their overall health and well-being.