Bar girls have become a rising concern for those looking to stem the spread of HIV, says a recent study conducted by KEM Hospital’s preventive medicine department. As per the study, most of the bar girls, aged between 21 and 25, are involved in commercial sex practices and hardly use condoms, making them fall under high-risk groups for HIV.
Published in the May 2011 issue of Indian Journal of Community Medicine, the study was conducted in an urban slum. It was found that the approximate numbers of bar girls residing in the area were 800-1200 and these girls frequently changed their residence. “In this first-of-its-kind study, we found that there was a serious need to emphasise condom use, irrespective of the type of customers. Condom usage was reported less with regular customers as compared to non-regular customers,” said Dr Ratnendra R Shinde, department head of preventive and social medicine, KEM Hospital.
A significant association was seen between condom use and type of customer. It was found that condoms were used less with regular customers (69.8%) as compared to non-regular customers (91.4%). Money was reported as the most common criterion (60.22% ) for selection of customers. Dr Shinde said, “We found that lack of education one of the reasons why they were unable to find an alternative occupation.”
Meanwhile, the Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) has been trying to reach out to this high-risk group and sensitise them on issues like HIV. “However, the bar owners proved to be a major barrier. We have asked them to permit the NGOs to meet the bar girls,” said Dr SS Kudalkar, project director, MDACS.
MDACS recently launched a campaign ‘VIVEK’ which has been working with bar girls to spread awareness.