Participation as a health communication strategy in HIV/AIDS intervention projects: An examination of a project targeting commercial sex workers in India

TitleParticipation as a health communication strategy in HIV/AIDS intervention projects: An examination of a project targeting commercial sex workers in India
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Dasgupta, S.
Affiliation (1st Author)New York University
Section or WGParticipatory Communication Research Section
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodePCRW4a
Slot Code (Keyword)PCRW4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleParticipatory communication as a driving force in innovation and change
Submission ID5085

A health promotion intervention based on the participatory approach is notably different from the top-down model of health communication. The underlying conception of the top-down model is that the disseminator of information is the expert who knows what is best for the passive audiences and can take decisions on the latter’s behalf. In opposition to this framework, a growing body of health communication based on the participatory approach emphasizes the need to redefine health by engaging the voices of the targeted audiences. The current paper examines how participatory communicative strategies frame discourses and practices of health in the Sonagachi Project. The Sonagachi Project is an HIV/AIDS intervention program undertaken in a red light district of Calcutta, India. The initiative refers to its origin and location in the district of the same name. With a residence of more than 50,000 sex workers, Sonagachi is one of the largest red light districts of South and South-East Asia. The current research which involves an ethnographic study of 37 commercial female sex workers investigates how participation of target audiences in the enunciation of health problems in HIV/AIDS intervention projects engenders change.In the current study it is analyzed how a participatory framework in health discourse and practice in a HIV/STI intervention project among sex workers addresses socio-structural constraints that affect the lives of the sex workers. The paper examines how participation engages the sex workers in roles of power and decision making within the health intervention program in order to redefine the problem of HIV /AIDS from an issue of individual behavioral commitment to a problem of community disempowerment. The results of the study find that participation in the Sonagachi Project is manifested in the way it generates communication processes that bring the sex workers’ community together to formulate and implement strategies to address their material needs. The capacity to engage in condom compliance and safe sex practices is facilitated by the participatory processes within the project manifested in an evident sense of ownership and organizational pride, collaboration with external agencies, political awareness generation and economic rehabilitation among the female sex workers.

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