Published: 29/04/2007 12:00 AM (UAE)
Lahore sex workers despondent over risk of contracting HIV
By Sabir Shah, Correspondent
Lahore: With nobody willing to help her escape, 28-year-old Rubina is confined to life as a sex worker in Lahore’s centuries-old Heera Mandi – widely deemed to be the largest red-light district in Pakistan, if not the entire subcontinent.
When the shy sex worker was tracked down to her retreat down one of the narrow Heera Mandi streets yesterday, she admitted with eyes full of desperate sadness she knew a bit about Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids).
“Do you think we are that naïve? Most of us here know what Aids is, but no condom can protect us from serial rape, which is part of our lives now. We are not “independent” sex workers, so cannot negotiate condom use once a customer has arrived and has already paid our madam.”
In a voice heavy with despair, she added, “My colleagues here are in a constant cold sweat over the possibility of meeting a tragic fate, courtesy of Aids, but I have no fears. I may have it by now, who knows. My only worry is my daughter because she too is likely to end up in this trade, once she attains puberty.”
“I have been living in the mysterious winding alleys of Lahore’s prostitute quarter since I was forced to sell my body 14 years ago to the owner of a pharmacy in a village outside Lahore.
Talking to Gulf News in Lahore yesterday, Dr Shahid Shaukat Malik, an office-bearer of the Pakistan Medical Association, said, “Pakistan is considered at high risk from the spread of HIV among the general public because of an illiterate population of more than 50 million, the soaring number of migrants and a highly mobile refugee population.”