Sex workers of Sonagachi in the city, considered Asia’s largest red light area, will launch an awareness campaign against drug use among customers.

"We have been fighting against AIDS and HIV for the last few years by raising awareness among customers and sex workers. Now we have decided to launch an awareness campaign regarding drug usage among customers and a section of sex workers," Durbar Mahila Samanaya Committee (DMSC) official Bharati said.

The NGO, which is working with 1,30,000 sex workers in West Bengal, is organising various programs on Friday, the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, to raise awareness among the masses.

"Sex workers residing in Sonagachi area are as such not addicted to drugs – maybe a very small section of it is. But there is a high prevalence of drug use among customers who visit it. So we think that an awareness campaign here will help to bring down its use among customers too," Bharati said.

Physician Promit Roy, who is associated with DMSC and looks into the health issues of sex workers of Sonagachi, cited examples how customers under the influence of drugs force them for unprotected sex.

"There are instances where customers come here under influence of drugs such as brown sugar, heroin and force the sex workers to have unprotected sex. This way both the customer and the sex worker are under the threat of getting infected by HIV," he said.

Roy said he has treated children of red light areas who get addicted to various kinds of drugs at a very young age.

"While diagnosing HIV cases in red light areas we have found that customers who have a history of drug abuse through needles are one of the causes behind the spread of HIV," he added.

Tamisrajit Banerjee, who runs an NGO for rehabilitation of addicts many of whom are regulars in red light areas, said there is an urgent need to raise awareness about drug abuse to combat the menace and the campaign will benefit both the customers and the sex workers.

 

"I had experiences of patients who are drug addicts and have been to sex quarters under the influence of drugs, or in order to finance their drugs have got into sex trade. So this initiative will truly help," said Banerjee, who is behind changing the lives of a number of addicts and rehabilitating them.