Actor, HIV/AIDS Advocate Richard Gere Urges Sex Workers in India To Refuse Sex Without Condoms
Actor and HIV/AIDS advocate Richard Gere on Wednesday at an HIV/AIDS awareness event in Mumbai, India, urged thousands of commercial sex workers to refuse sex without condoms, Reuters reports (Mukherjee, Reuters, 1/10). Gere urged the crowd of roughly 15,000 sex workers from Mumbai and the neighboring Thane district to say after him, "No condoms, no sex." Gere and Indian actress Bipasha Basu also presented awards to sex workers for their HIV/AIDS intervention programs. Gere earlier met with sex workers who told him that they use pictures and books to persuade other sex workers to insist their clients use condoms. "Before there was a total lack of knowledge among sex workers about HIV and even about their own bodies," Gere said, adding, "Now there is a radical change. When sex workers speak of condoms as a norm, it is a powerful statement, it empowers them." According to aid workers, there are roughly 10,000 sex workers in Mumbai. Ashok Alexander, director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Indian HIV prevention project Avahan, said the involvement of sex workers in awareness programs is "key" because "they are the architects of HIV prevention." Chandra Iyengar, a leading Maharashtra state secretary, said, "Sex workers are the foot soldiers. Educating and motivating them is the key to fighting AIDS" (Talwar Badam, AP/CBS News, 1/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.