Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sex work, HIV risk and human rights

A major theme for AIDS 2012 is turning the tide for key populations, and one of these groups is sex workers.
The Sex Worker Freedom Festival in Kolkata – 
an alternative conference hub for sex workers denied entry to the United States. 
Image courtesy of Luca Stevenson, Sex Worker Open University and ICRSE
Sex work is illegal in many countries, creating its own problems for sex workers trying to protect themselves against HIV. Now there seems to be a global trend of criminalising condom possession, with police claiming it provides ‘evidence’ that sex work is taking place.
Research was presented at the Washington conference on the impact these new laws are having: condom use by sex workers has reduced significantly, increasing the risk of HIV transmission.
The session called for an end to this trend of new police powers, but – more importantly – for the decriminalisation of sex work for both the workers and their clients. This would have clear benefits for both public health and human rights.
Hillary Clinton mentioned sex workers specifically in her address to the conference, pledging money for prevention programmes for this at-risk group.
The US has been criticised this week for denying sex workers visas to enter the country and attend AIDS 2012. A Sex Worker Freedom Festival is taking place in Kolkata, India, as an alternative conference hub for sex workers denied entry to the United States. (You can follow events at the Kolkata conference through the HIVandhumanrights blog.)

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