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Priya has been a victim of domestic violence since the day she got married. She had to go through the trauma for 25 years. She is now engaged in sex work for financial independence from her abusive relationship. She also works in the health sector but the earnings are not enough for her children’s education.

“Some of them (clients) insist on not using condoms. They even harass us mentally. I have come across cases where the client refuses to use a condom because they are paying for sex. We try to make them understand when they behave roughly. Unlike others, we have to behave like actors most of the time. It is an act,” said Priya.

Priya says that she makes sure to use a condom every time while indulging in sexual activity with her clients. She also advises other girls in her network to do the same.

“HIV has become very common now. Everyone consumes drugs nowadays, be it a child or a grown-up. One syringe is shared by many. So, without a condom, no one should indulge in any sexual activity with a stranger. I use it myself and advise others as far as possible,” she said.

According to the Assam State AIDS Control Society, there is a large influx of migrants from neighbouring countries and states. They often get involved in sex trade, increasing the risk HIV transmission among communities. About 86.31% of the HIV cases in all of Assam are transmitted through unprotected sex.

The National AIDS Control Programme aims at reaching out to the hard-to-reach population groups at high risk of HIV. The groups have been divided into four categories – Injecting drug users, female sex workers, parent to child transmission and MSMs or Men who have sex with men, which includes homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender. Various NGOs work under this program and engage peer leaders to be able to make contact with people from these high-risk groups.

Rani started injecting drugs when she was seventeen. What started as curiosity soon turned into addiction. She has been sober for over five years now and works as a peer leader for an NGO in Guwahati. She spends most of her days reaching out to drug users and delivering medicines to those infected with HIV.

“There are a good number of hotspots in Guwahati. There are 60 FIDUs (female injecting drug users). There are about300-400 boys,” said Rani.
In Assam 20,000 tests are done every day; around 250 of them are conducted in Guwahati. The Gauhati Medical College and Hospital alone conducts 1,800 tests every month.

The names and identities of HIV patients and those from High-Risk Groups interviewed in the documentary have been withheld to protect their right to privacy.

Also read: Prez Kovind launches web portal ‘Advancing North East’ for NE youths

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