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The Sonagachi Project: A Sustainable Community Intervention Program

High rates of HIV infection among sex workers in India indicate the importance of understanding the process of establishing a sustainable community intervention program. The Sonagachi Project, based in Calcutta, India, has been associated with lower HIV rates among sex workers as compared to other urban centers in India. The program defined HIV as an occupational health problem and included multifaceted, multilevel interventions addressing community (having a high-status advocate; addressing environmental barriers and resources), group (changing social relationships), and individual factors (improving skills and competencies related to HIV prevention and treatment). The Sonagachi Project's core concepts and strategies evolved as community needs were expressed and defined. In particular, the program was not initially conceptualized as a community empowerment project but emerged over time, allowing for project sustainability. Project components appear to be replicable across settings within India and worldwide.

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