Unpaid AIDS workers in Nepal 'turn to prostitution'

Published: October 7, 2011

KATHMANDU – Desperate AIDS charity workers in Nepal are turning to prostitution to pay bills and buy food because government bureacracy has denied them their wages, campaigners claimed Friday.

Gay rights and AIDS charity the Blue Diamond Society said it had been unable to pay its outreach workers, who receive as little as 3,000 rupees (S$49) a month, for 12 weeks.

"There are about 400 outreach and peer educators in Nepal and some are living with HIV," said the group’s leader, Nepalese lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant.

"Their main job is to educate people into safer sex, distribute condoms, provide HIV and sexuality counselling etcetera."

"We don’t have exact details, but many have turned to sex work to survive," he said.

Pant said many of his employees might even be failing to use condoms in border areas where free contraception is no longer available.

The World Policy Institute think-tank said on its blog this week that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) battling HIV/AIDS in Nepal were being denied $10 million (S$13 million) in aid currently being held by the government.

The money has been in limbo since 2009 when Nepal announced it would stop funding HIV/AIDS education programmes, saying that infection rates were slowing down.

After pressure from the World Bank, the deeply impoverished Himalayan country agreed to reverse its decision, but problems with contract negotiations and other bureaucratic delays have meant the money has still not been released.

"While stories of stagnant bureaucracy in Nepal’s fledgling democratic government are not new, the consequences this time will put those increasingly dependent on NGO support at great risk," said Kyle Knight, author of the World Policy Institute blog post.

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