How a Delhi Teen Helped Sex Workers Get HPV Vaccine

Aarna is a 16-year-old in tenth grade. Watch how she helps sex workers get vaccinated against cervical cancer.

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Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar

Camerapersons: Ribhu Chatterjee, Anoushka Rajesh

Delhi's Aarna Bhura is a 16-year-old, who's just completed her tenth board exams. In her spare time she goes to music class, boxing class...

...and helps sex workers get HPV vaccines to protect them against cervical cancer.

This is how she does it.


‘Anu Aunty Made Me Think, How Can I Help?'

When Aarna was 13, she ran into Anu aunty, who took care of her as a kid.

"I ran into her and we talked. She never actually told me what she told me that day," says Aarna.

"She told me how she was sex-trafficked before she came to work as domestic help."
Aarna Bhura, 16

She says, "In most cases, they're not doing it by choice. Society still blames them. I felt like I had to do something to help them, to help people who had the same fate as she had."

Aarna speaking to sex workers at Delhi's GB Road.

(Photo: Anoushka Rajesh/The Quint)

Step One: Collecting Funds

Aarna says she would usually come up with ideas on the bus after school, and then sit down with her mother, Namita, after dinner to discuss them. They decided to do an online fund raiser. But, didn't get much response.

"It (sex work) is something that is taboo in India, and people were not willing to donate online," she says.

Aarna, along with her mom, then travelled to cities across India to organise physical fundraisers.

She says, "We collected about Rs 3.8 lakhs in funds."

"There are 3 doses to the HPV vaccine. In total, it was very expensive. It costs Rs 15,000 per dose. With the funds we collected, we were able to get at least 115 doses, that's 30 sex workers vaccinated."
Aarna Bhura, 15

Aarna filling out vaccine certificates at the vaccination camp.

(Photo: Namita Bhura/ Sourced by The Quint)


Step Two: Convincing the Sex Workers to Get Vaccinations

Once she had the vaccines, Aarna took the help of local NGO, Sacchi Saheli, as well as government healthcare providers who work in the area.

They made the primary urban health centre in GB road their home base.

Now, they needed to speak to the sex workers in the area, and convince them to take the vaccine.

Dr Nagma Kamal, who works with the Indian Medical Development Trust, tells FIT, "The girls here are scared of injections. We have to coax them to take it."

"So we had to explain it all very clearly to them first only then were they convinced."
Dr Nagma Kamal, Indian Medical Development Trust

Aarna also took a shot of the vaccine herself with them to help and ease their fear.

Aarna getting her HPV vaccine shot, along with the women at GB road.

(Photo: Namita Bhura/ Sourced by The Quint)

...’It Was a Matter of My Life'

Armed with knowledge, these women took back the reins of their health.

"Normally, I am scared of injections, but I didn't feel it here. It was a matter of my life,"one of the recipients of the vaccine tells FIT.

Speaking of whether they saw a dip in the number of women showing up for their second and third doses, Aarna says, "no, the number did not go down."

"They were really very happy to see someone willing to help them because not many people are doing that," she adds.

"They were also really happy to share some of the other problems they have, which has gotten me thinking, is there something else I can do to help them? I don't really know what yet but I am trying to figure out."
Aarna Bhura

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Topics:  videos   Sex Workers   Cervical Cancer 

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