Sanjeev Vandse, 28

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Anti-Aids Crusader

Udupi, Karnataka

By G Vishnu

'Sex workers can make a difference only by coming out in the open’: says Sanjeev Vandse
‘Sex workers can make a difference only by coming out in the open’: says Sanjeev Vandse, Photo: Shrisha G

For Sanjeev Vandse, misfortune came in quick instalments: sexual abuse followed by a fatal disease. “I was gang-raped by my bosses when I was working in a Mumbai hotel,” says the 28-year-old. He claims this incident was instrumental in changing his sexual orientation. To his horror, Vandse learnt that besides the trauma of rape, he was also HIV positive. As a gay activist working in the small town of Udupi, he fights for the rights of hundreds of Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and Male Sexual Workers (MSW) operating in coastal Karnataka. He started by working with various gay rights and anti-AIDS organisations, but was soon disillusioned by the way they functioned. He chose to reach out to the people directly. With the help of NGOs and government hospitals, he built a network of MSMs, MSWs, gay men and women, HIV positive cases and eunuchs. Having spent the past three years as a counsellor advocating the rights of people afflicted with AIDS, he is seen as a mentor by hundreds who seek his advice. In a society where moral policing and deepseated prejudice make homosexuals and sex workers easy victims of perverse violence, Vandse has become a guru for those shunned by society.

Vandse can be reached at +91 98458 39697

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