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India's Successful AIDS Prevention Program Threatened by Proliferation of Mobile Phones

BY Lisa Goldman | Tuesday, November 27 2012

Inexpensive mobile phones have brought independence to India's sex workers. Rather than work in brothels, where the madam takes a cut of their fee, they can now deal directly with their customers. But this financial freedom comes with a prices — a steep rise in HIV and AIDS rates. The New York Times reports the story:

Cellphones, those tiny gateways to modernity, have recently allowed prostitutes to shed the shackles of brothel madams and strike out on their own. But that independence has made prostitutes far harder for government and safe-sex counselors to trace. And without the advice and free condoms those counselors provide, prostitutes and their customers are returning to dangerous ways.

Studies show that prostitutes who rely on cellphones are more susceptible to H.I.V. because they are far less likely than their brothel-based peers to require their clients to wear condoms.

India was, until this development, a surprising success story in the fight against AIDS. A national prevention program that was funded by the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sent trained counselors to red light districts, where they distributed condoms and trained prostitutes in safe sex practices. But now the brothels are closing down and the sex workers, armed with their mobile phones, are no longer concentrated in one place.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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New Media Sites in Iran Blur Lines Between Citizen Journo, Professional Journo, & Activist

In 2010, Newsweek declared Iran the “birthplace of citizen journalism.” Iranian bloggers were hailed by Westerners as “brave” for their coverage of the aftermath of the disputed 2009 election. A 40-second video of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan during an anti-government protest won a prestigious George Polk Award, the first anonymously-produced work to be so honored. And then came the 2013 study “Whither Blogestan,” which sought to explain Iran's shrinking blogosphere. Of nearly 25,000 highly active and connected blogs in 2008 and 2009, only 20 percent were still online in September 2013.

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