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.
Copyright © 2018, American Anthropological Association. Reprinted from Anthropology News with the permission of the American Anthropological Association.
American Anthropological Association
Dasgupta, Simanti, "Living with 'Risky' Bodies" (2018). Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work Faculty Publications. 64.