Aastha Project Supports the Children of Sex Workers
In the Mumbai and Thane districts of Maharashtra, India, Family Health International's Aastha Project aims to reduce the incidence of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among 30,000 male, female, and transgender sex workers—a population considered at risk for HIV infection and transmission. Although interventions focus on sex workers, they include services for their children that offer the chance for a better life and an escape from a future in sex work.
Children of sex workers face discrimination and challenges in accessing their basics rights. They also have limited access to services. Often, they are not enrolled in school or they drop out because they experience social exclusion. In addition, the children tend to have underdeveloped psychosocial life skills and rarely see positive role model.
Aastha Parivaar Empowers Sex Workers to Prevent HIV/AIDS and STIs
A key innovation of the Aastha project has been the formation of the first and largest sex worker federation in India. Called the Aastha Parivaar (family), its purpose is to facilitate the meaningful involvement of sex workers in planning and implementing programs to prevent HIV and STIs among them and other high-risk groups. Over 30,000 sex workers in the Mumbai and Thane districts are represented on the Aastha Parivaar.
Through the federation, sex workers are empowered to band together to ensure their needs are met. All sex workers have a voice, regardless of religion, race, background, language, or sexual orientation. They are members of smaller self-help groups, while elected representatives hold leadership positions on local-level community based organizations that report up to the district-level federation's managing committee.