Gates Gives Indian Prostitutes A Discount

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Prostitutes in India have the opportunity to become card-carrying members of an elite group of, um, prostitutes with chip-embedded smartcards courtesy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The smartcards are a part of a greater initiative to fight sexually transmitted diseases with store discounts. Huh?

Right. So the smartcards, given to about 500 sex workers in Mysore (while we realize how apropos the town name is, measured against an apparently less needy Bangalore, we’ll refrain making any snide remarks about STDs and the details therein), offer discounts at local shops, restaurants, and hotels. Frequent use of the card earns loyalty points that can be redeemed for greater discounts.

The catch is that the prostitutes have to visit the doctor for a checkup every three months to test for STDs and get the necessary treatment if one is discovered. Failure to appear for a health check results in the revocation of the smartcard.

“Sex workers face stigma and discrimination in their daily life. The smart card is a symbol of self-esteem that creates a sense of inclusion for them in the society,” said Ratna, a member of non-government AIDS organization Ashodaya.

Of course, it also says, “I’m a hooker.” But there is some level of privacy. Store clerks and traders cannot access health information from the card, and doctors do not have access to purchase information. The DNA India article does not say whether or to what extent the program will provide smartcards to the other 1100 sex workers in Mysore or other areas of India.


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