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News Article

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Anthropology News


In Kolkata, female sex workers’ well-being is overshadowed by practices and conceptions around HIV/AIDS. This article describes an outreach program designed to prevent the spread of HIV infections through condom programming based on a public health initiative, Sonagachi HIV/AIDS Intervention Program (SHIP). However, the identification of female sex workers as a high-risk group for HIV has compounded their existing struggle in which the state medical regime now construes and constructs the women as "risky" bodies in need of targeted intervention. High-risk group status has conferred a kind of hyper-visibility on female sex workers -- unthinkable were it not for the looming menace of HIV/AIDS. But, the construction of their bodies as risky simultaneously renders them invisible in their everyday struggles for health, obscuring their claim to comprehensive medical care and their general sense of well-being.

In this uneven construction of risk, can "risky" bodies claim well-being? Or does the notion of a high-risk group legitimized as a public health decree intrinsically exclude those who disproportionately bear the brunt of associated social stigma? How do the female sex workers experience and negotiate this uneven terrain?

In this context, I locate two interrelated themes that emerged during fieldwork: the first relates to a studied reluctance on behalf of female sex workers to collect their HIV/AIDS test results. The second relates to a recurring narrative of the struggles of motherhood and maternal care.



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American Anthropological Association