This article narrates an inspiring discovery for development professionals who are searching for ways to empower women to protect themselves, their partners and families from HIV infection. This was based on the experience of the author as she came across a movement of sex workers who successfully negotiated safe sex in the heart of Calcutta, India. Employing focus group discussions, informal interviews and home visits during 1999, the author discovered that a Sexually Transmitted Disease/HIV Intervention Project has been set up to promote disease control and condom distribution among these sex workers. Operating on three principles for its work--respect, recognition, and reliance, the program aims to create an impact on the sex workers themselves and their peers. Likewise, the need to build alliances with clients, training the police and forming the Durbar Mahila Samanvaya Committee were deemed as necessary. Several lessons were learned during the course of the research: use of stories and history to rally the community; retaining flexibility, meeting changing needs; using drama to promote communication; and negotiating with men and opposing patriarchy.