Central Asian, Eastern European Commercial Sex Worker-Related Policies ‘Counterproductive’ to HIV/AIDS Fight, Report Says
Many Eastern Europe and Central Asian countries' efforts to curb commercial sex work have been "ineffective" and often are "counterproductive" to efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, according to a report released on Monday by the advocacy group Central and Eastern European Harm Reduction Network, the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 12/12). CEEHRN based the report on a survey of organizations addressing the needs of sex workers in 27 countries in the regions and found that many sex workers face oppressive government policies, poverty, discrimination and health risks such as drug use (CEEHRN release, 12/12). The report also found that 14 of the countries surveyed have laws making commercial sex work a minor offense or crime, which CEEHRN says stigmatizes sex workers and creates hurdles for them to access health and social care. The report recommends that sex workers become involved in HIV/AIDS and human rights programs in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, that governments and organizations implement voluntary and confidential HIV testing and that governments enact policies to "stem the harassment of sex workers by police," according to the Associated Press. "If we continue to ignore this precarious situation, the HIV epidemic that is now concentrated among sex workers and drug users will quickly translate into a full-blown health crisis in the community at large," CEEHRN Director Raminta Stuikyte, who co-authored the report, said (Associated Press, 12/12). The number of HIV-positive people living in Eastern Europe and Central Asia increased 25% over the last year to 1.6 million, according to a report released last month by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/21). According to CEEHRN, UNAIDS and WHO estimate that 800,000 commercial sex workers live in the regions (CEEHRN release, 12/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.