ICMR to map dating apps, internet soliciting to align AIDS campaign with changing sexual behaviour

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Aids Research Institute (NARI) are assessing a shift in society’s sexual behaviour because of dating apps and soliciting on the internet to find reasons for the plateauing of decline in HIV cases.

The HIV cases have been sliding because of a robust anti-AIDS campaign, but the last five years saw a pause in the contraction. The changing sexual habits because of the massive increase in virtual interactions could be one of the reasons.

The ICMR, NARI and World Health Organisation (WHO) now have developed guidelines for mapping, size estimation and risk behaviour surveys among key population groups in virtual space.

The document notes that the traditional ways of soliciting through brothels have been taken over by interactions on Whatsapp groups and dating apps. The guideline document says the virtual space brings extra benefits of anonymity and widespread accessibility.

The guideline document said that Female Sex Workers (FSWs) in some cities in India now predominantly use mobile phones to establish a network for solicitation of sex. Men having Sex with Men (MSM) use dating apps.

The dating apps will be identified for the mapping exercise as they have both local and global presence, and an estimation of active users will be made. It also involves obtaining a list of active users from the service providers or virtual mapping of active users.

The survey findings will help devise a strategy for the anti-HIV campaign that has focused on conventional practices till now. Apart from the dating apps, the Whatsapp groups are also being mapped.

A study by the Delhi State AIDS Control Society (DSACS) found that pimps acted as operators who controlled phone-based sex networks. According to a DSACS estimate, there are 2500 operators, each having 30-40 sex workers. That means around 75000 to 125000 female sex workers in Delhi operate through mobile-based networks.

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