WHO HIV/AIDS Adviser Calls for ‘Decriminalization’ of Prostitution in Asia
The Lancet reports that Gilles Poumerol, the World Health Organization's Western Pacific regional adviser on HIV/AIDS and STDs, has advocated "decriminalization of prostitution in Asia," warning that the region's "rapidly growing" sex industry has hampered HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns. According to Poumerol, "When sex workers are heavily penalized, implementing effective prevention programs is extremely difficult." He added, "If Asia wants to avoid an explosive HIV epidemic, the most effective measure is to ... stop HIV transmission within the ... sex industry." Chantawipa Noi Apisuk of Thailand's Empower Foundation, a group that supports prostitutes, said that Poumerol has recognized a "very important public health and human rights issue," adding that the decriminalization of prostitution would help address the "health needs" of prostitutes. Earlier this month, the WHO released a report, titled "Sex Work in Asia," which found that the sex industry -- "illegal in virtually all of the region" -- often operates in secret, "making it difficult to disseminate condoms and advise about HIV/AIDS" (Ahmad, Lancet, 8/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.