Traditional Devadasi system based sex work (dhandha) is practiced inIndia. The communities that practice this system are affected severely by AIDS epidemic. Through this paper we present the views of gharwalis (brothel madams) regarding the impact of AIDS on the traditional system (Devadasi system) of initiating girls as sex workers (Devadasis) and on the practice of sex work (dhandha) associated with that system. Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with twelve gharwalis as a follow-up of a cohort study, which investigated the patterns and determinants of sex worker migration from northern Karnataka to southern Maharashtra, in India. According to gharwalis, the disease (AIDS) consequences; death, fear and stigma affected dhandha operations, changed the attitude of the Devadasi community against the practice of dhandha and the Devadasi system, besides, influenced the community to take actions to stop the practice of dhandha and the Devadasi system. The findings suggest that the interplay between the disease consequences and the community’s response to those consequences contribute to transition dhandha and the Devadasi system. We discuss our findings, describe the transition and the consequent risk enhancing conditions. Finally, highlight the need to address these conditions to reduce Devadasis risk and vulnerability to HIV infection.
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