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Rise in sex workers a cause for worry
Indo-Asian News Service
Shimla, Oct 16 (IANS) While Himachal Pradesh remains a favourite tourist draw, a rise in the number of sex workers at its resorts and the consequent threat of HIV/AIDS are worrying officials.
Health department officials estimate that there are around 6,000 prostitutes in the hill state, which has a population of six million. Of this, some 1,500 are estimated to be in capital Shimla alone.
"We have arrived at the latest figure of 6,000 from the study of ORG CSR, a Delhi-based non governmental organisation, and recent findings of other agencies," said C.D. Sharma, the in-charge the state AIDS control society.
"Of the 1,335 HIV positive cases in the state, nearly all (94 percent) were infected by indulging in unsafe sex," Sharma told IANS. "Obviously, we need to further raise AIDS awareness campaigns."
Last year, another NGO, the Himachal Pradesh Voluntary Health Association, had put the number of prostitutes at over 1,200 in Shimla.
"Most sex workers are from the poorest sections of society," said its chief Ranjan Mahajan.
The NGO had pointed out that a majority of the women involved in prostitution were not aware of sexually transmitted diseases.
It said women from middle class homes, including college students, were also involved in the flesh trade to earn quick money. They catered to clients in hotels and guest houses.
Another fact worrying anti-AIDS campaigners is that hotels in the state do not sell condoms.
Besides the main resorts of Shimla, Manali, Kullu, Dalhousie, Dharamsala, Kasauli and Chail, smaller resorts are also known to have sex workers.
Said Sharma: "The growth in the sex trade is due to increasing tourism in Himachal."