Sex Workers Worldwide Should Receive Legal Recognition, Rights To Control Spread of HIV, Researchers at AIDS Conference Say
Countries should legally recognize commercial sex work in criminal and labor laws to effectively control the spread of HIV among sex workers and the general population, researchers said at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, the Toronto Star reports. According to studies presented at the conference, legal recognition of sex workers would enhance their safety and reduce their chances of contracting HIV. Glenn Betteridge, a senior policy adviser with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said doing so also would decrease their susceptibility to rape and sexual assault, which in turn would reduce their chances of contracting the virus. Legal rights also would make sex workers more financially secure, so they could be empowered to turn down high risk encounters and have access to medical care and education, according to the Star. "Sex workers are part of the solution in the fight against HIV," Anna-Louise Crago -- a spokesperson for a Montreal-based sex worker alliance called Stella who led a group of sex workers from 21 countries to the conference -- said. She added that "sex workers need workers' rights and human rights in order to fight AIDS" (Hall, Toronto Star, 8/17). At the conference on Wednesday, dozens of sex workers demonstrated to demand legal recognition. The workers came from Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Thailand and other countries. The workers criticized governments and police who harass sex workers in different countries, saying that such practices force them to work secretly and limit their access to HIV prevention services. The demonstrators also criticized the U.S. policy limiting funds to HIV/AIDS programs that pledge their opposition to commercial sex work. Sex workers and their clients in China account for 20% of the country's HIV-positive population, according to AFP/Today Online. In Ethiopia, 73% of sex workers are HIV-positive, and 50% and 31% of sex workers in South Africa and Cote d'Ivoire, respectively, are HIV-positive, AFP/Today Online reports (Hours, AFP/Today Online, 8/16).
Kaisernetwork.org is serving as the official webcaster of the conference. View the guide to coverage and all webcasts, interviews and a daily video round up of conference highlights at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2006.