Geeta looking up, plus copy: helping women protect themselves

Geeta, 34, is a sex worker in India. Like so many women in the sex trade, she started the work out of necessity, as a way to survive after her husband left her with two small children and no income. And like many of her colleagues, her job puts her at risk of being infected by HIV.

At first the illness was a mystery to Geeta, something that struck other sex workers with no apparent cause. She watched one friend grow weak, stop eating, and seemingly waste away, leaving behind small children when she died. Geeta was terrified. She didn’t know what caused the illness or how to stop it. The threat seemed overwhelming, and its destruction continued. She saw at least 30 other women die from the disease and twice that many become ill.

Geeta felt enormous relief when, while training to become a peer educator with a local HIV intervention, she learned how to protect herself and her friends from HIV. Later, when she joined PATH as a key population consultant, she reached out to other sex workers, helping them find ways to protect themselves.

Through PATH’s InterAct and Convergence projects, Geeta now provides safe gathering places for sex workers inside anonymous buildings, away from the stigmas and pressures of everyday life. Using interpersonal communication and interactive theater, Geeta and other health advocates are helping women work through solutions to common problems—violence, coercion, discrimination—and find support for their situations and evaluate their choices.

Geeta’s work with PATH is saving lives and empowering women. “No one can think positively about their decisions and their lives if they’re just told what to do,” Geeta says. “But with PATH, we help our peers in thinking about the consequences of our choices and feeling worthy of taking more control of our future. And that can make all the difference.”

Partners

CARE

Family Health International

Gramin Evam Nagar Vikas Parishad

Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust

International HIV/AIDS Alliance

Janani

Karnataka Health Promotion Trust

National AIDS Control Programme

Orchid

Pathfinder International

Patna Network for Positive People

Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti

Srikakulam Network of Positive People

State AIDS Control Societies, India

Suraksha Society

Tamilnadu AIDS Initiative

Transport Corporation of India Foundation

USER Manipur

Youth Club of Bejjipuram

Photo: PATH/Satvir Malhotra.

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Geeta’s work with PATH is saving lives and empowering women.