‘She reminds me’
Mamta* is the bread earner in the house. I didn’t go to school. I try to help out Mamta by taking up (temporary) jobs every now and then. But her work is main. I know in her line of job, it is important for her to be healthy and safe. She has educated me on how to ensure I am safe at least from infections and HIV. Though sometimes I forget to use a condom. She usually tries to remind me. But in love, you know, one can miss it. I am also human.
Mukesh*, 29, Mumbai
‘I am faithful’
I want to settle down with my partner and have kids. Maybe soon I will marry her and then find a job in a factory, so she doesn’t have to do this work. Why do you ask these questions? How can I use a condom if I want to have kids? I think she uses condoms always with customers, so she is safe. I am also faithful and don’t need a condom now since I want kids. Yes, I am scared of HIV. But Aastha didi has told me there is medicine to prevent HIV. Maybe soon we will use that. Having kids with her is important to me.
Akram*, 26, Mumbai
‘I ask them to use condoms’
I am a carpenter and also do plumbing work. It is hard to get work now with my limited skill set and especially in this lockdown. I also try to get some customers for Sushma*. Her job is easier but sometimes it is not safe. We try to keep ourselves safe. I don’t get violent customers and I ask them to use condoms but sometimes they don’t listen…. you know, money is important, now more than ever. Taking care of ourselves should be on us. Condoms are good but it depends on the customer.
Shakil*, 32, Mumbai
‘They know how to get it on’
I represent some of the girls I have known for years. I take care of their safety and ensure they have money to run their life. You ask, what do I do to ensure I stop HIV? Most girls here use condoms and they even know how to fool customers, who refuse condoms, by putting on the condoms using their mouth or in the dark or by making sure the customer drinks enough alcohol. We know these things. Do I use it? I do but I don’t need to. Sometimes I don’t. I am not like the customers. She is my partner.
Rajesh*, 35, Mumbai
‘What if we die of hunger?’
I am Kavita’s* aadmi. She works in the brothel for money. There is a new disease now, so she has very few customers. There is no source of income and few customers who came also did not want to use condoms. There is less pleasure also definitely with condom so why should they pay money for less pleasure. I am also thinking of taking different types of customers. But they may not want to use condoms. All these years we have heard condoms are a must but now without money if we die of hunger what is the use of being healthy. Is there no other way of being safe from Corona and also HIV?
Kamlesh*, 28, Mumbai
To protect the identity, the person/s in the picture is/are model/s and names have been changed.
Aastha Parivaar is a federation of sex workers that educates people from various background, genders and ages on safe sex practices. Love Matters India and Aastha Parivaar join hands to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in December, which is also HIV/AIDS Awareness Month. Aastha Parivaar and Love Matters are committed to promoting safe sex practices.