The data for the present paper are drawn from a nested study within a larger Frontiers Prevention Project (FPP) research project in Andhra Pradesh, India. The FPP is based on the principle of providing a comprehensive package of interventions in geographically defined sites that are focused on population groups that are key to the dynamics of the HIV epidemic. These include female sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people living with HIV/AIDS. These populations, or key populations, are key not only in the sense that they are more vulnerable to infection and onward transmission, but also because without their mobilization and empowerment, the epidemic will continue to grow (Global HIV Prevention Working Group 2003; Campbell and Mzaidume 2001). Fundamental to the entire approach proposed by the FPP is the principle that programmes and services will be more effective when implemented in the context of meaningful community participation, mobilization and involvement at all levels.
This paper describes the nature, antecedents and the extent of stigma and discrimination among female sex workers and a cultural category of men who have sex with men. We have presented the findings of these two populations together because both involve strong gender dimension of stigma and discrimination; both deal in a trade that is illegal; and both are highly stigmatized and therefore hidden. The category of men considered here identify themselves as kothis or ‘not men’, namely men who are sexually penetrated by their male partners who are referred to as panthis or ‘real men’.