Tamilnadu AIDS Initiative (TAI) - Voluntary Health Services has launched a helpline for positive sex workers, providing them an opportunity to come to terms with the depression that grips them and continue living.
The ‘Kelungal Tharappadum' hotline (22542301) helps the women who have been disowned by their family. Ironically, they are not cared for though the women financially support the family.
TAI's project director Lakshmi Bai said 811 of the 1,770 sex workers identified in western Tamil Nadu's 12 districts were guilt-ridden. The underlying messages of the project are that anti-retroviral therapy should be taken regularly, nutrition is important and prevention methods such as safe sex should be adopted, Dr. Lakshmi said.
“These women need psychosocial and emotional support. We help them to connect spiritually,” says Dr. Lakshmi Bai. Sometimes she personally answers every call.
“I probe them, record their speech and individually deal with their fear of death and emotional problems,” she said. “Within a week we provide financial help, be it for their child's education or starting business,” she added.
Selvarani of Namakkal, a beneficiary, says her son refused to eat food cooked by her after he learnt of her positive status. Her daughter has a master's degree in science and is working as a teacher in a private school but has disowned her. Selvarani's parents depend on her.
“With TAI's support women like me have set up self-help groups. I have leased out a farmland where I grow tubers. I have purchased a cow and hope to earn by selling milk. Whenever I am depressed I call TAI helpline and return encouraged,” says Selvarani.
After a convention in the city last fortnight, the TAI Vizhudugal Federation formed by groups of community based organisations, including transgenders and sex workers, pooled Rs.2 lakh and proposed to buy Indira Vikas Patrikas worth Rs.5,000 each for 40 positive children of sex workers.