In Jehangirpuri, north of New Delhi, a vast slum of rickety brick buildings and makeshift shanties, where raw sewage runs in the gutters and half-naked children play in muddy dirt lanes, Ryan was welcomed on the first day of her trip by a group of Indian women engaged in CARE's HIV prevention program, which focuses on young women ages 15 to 24. That sex is a forbidden topic here has proved one of the biggest hurdles in preventing the spread of AIDS. With more than five million HIV-positive citizens, about 40 percent of whom are women, India has more HIV infections than any other country but South Africa. CARE staff are working to prevent new infections by training teenage girls to talk with each other about issues of sex and sexually transmitted diseases.

Six women welcome Ryan, Anne Goddard (CARE's chief of staff), and me into a small room with garlands of flowers, rose petals, dots of red grease paint applied to our foreheads. The small room in a cement building is home to a family of four, lit only by a candle at the center of a low table. "We never have electricity for a full 24 hours!" one woman apologetically tells our interpreter, CARE's Sunita Prasad. We huddle around the table and meet 18-year-old Rani, 16-year-old Ruby, and their mothers, Manorama and Savitri. Ruby and Rani are two of some 80 girls who have volunteered to spread information about HIV/AIDS to their friends in the neighborhood. Mature and self-possessed, decorative studs in their nostrils, they are not shy about discussing sex, substance abuse, and contraception.


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