APNSW+ and NSWP+ launched at SWFF

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Launch of APNSW+ and NSWP+

Tuesday 24th July 2012

Sex Worker Freedom Festival

Kolkata, India

We are a group of HIV+ Sex Workers and people committed to treatment access for sex workers living with HIV. We have decided that we need a special platform to fight for the rights of HIV+ sex workers and to bring the sex worker’s issues and the energy and glamour of the Sex workers movement to the treatment activist movement!

Our new platforms ‘Asia and Pacific Network of Positive Sex Workers’ (APNSW+) and ‘Global Network of Positive Sex Workers’ (NSWP+) make these demands:

  • HIV+ Sex workers demand the right to look fabulous- to do this we need better and affordable HIV drugs now
  • We demand the right to work in all sectors, including in the sex industry
  • We demand that the drug companies from the West stop trying to kill us through their attacks on developing countries right to manufacture, export and import generic ARVs
  • As HIV+ sex workers we face MULTIPLE stigma and discrimination despite 25 years of treatment activism there is an extra layer of stigma if we have HIV and do sex work. As positive sex workers, we demand that this stigma is fought and our specific needs are met
  • We demand not to be last in line for treatment or refused treatment because we are sex workers
  • Treatment needs to be matched to the patient not the patient matched to the treatment
  • Post Exposure Prophylaxis is not available to most people around the world – we need access and availability of PEP, especially for sex workers


Sex Worker Freedom Festival Programme


The programme of the groundbreaking Sex Worker Freedom Festival, organised by the Global Network in response to the exclusion of sex workers from the 2012 International AIDS Conference in washing D.C.

IAC Washington/Kolkata joint session: The Oldest Profession: Is Sex Work, Work?

This joint session featuring speakers from both Kolkata and Washington looked at the legal, policy, labour and public health rationale for creating an enabling environment in which sex work is integrated into communities as simply another occupation.

The keynote speaker was Naomi Akers from St James Infirmary.

'The Tide Cannot Be Turned Without Us'

Watch Cheryl Overs' speech: 'The Tide Cannot Be Turned Without Us:  HIV Epidemics Amongst Key Affected Populations' given during the Plenary: 'Dynamics of the Epidemic in Context' at the IAC in Washington DC (from 20 minutes into the video above.)

You can also download the full transcript of the Plenary, or the MP3 audio file from the Global Health / KFF website.

IAS president remarks on sex work 'shocking'

Elly Katabira, president of the International AIDS Society, has reportedly said that the exclusion of sex workers and drug users from the Washington DC conference was not an issue as they are “criminals.”

Responding Andrew Hunter, NSWP President said her comments were shocking.

“This International Conference (in Washington) we believe has been a huge missed opportunity with key affected populations such as sex workers missing from the conversation on how we can work together to end AIDS.”

Ruth Morgan Thomas, NSWP Global Coordinator also said: “We need to shout very loudly at Washington; at the President of the International AIDS Society.”

Read more in this story in The Hindu.

SWFF urges Indian Govt not to bow to pressure on generic HIV drugs

The Sex Worker Freedom Festival urged the Indian government not to bow to pressure from the EU and US on Free Trade Agreements and to continue to produce generic anti-HIV drugs that are affordable for poorer nations.

Andrew Hunter, NSWP President said, “If we want to live in a world that is fair we cannot allow rich governments and corporations to hijack the global health system. We need to keep India as the pharmacy of the world. We need India to stand up to the EU and the US and keep us alive.”

Democracy Now! Reports on Sex Worker Freedom Festival in Kolkata

Watch Meena Seshu and Annah Pickering speaking from the Sex Worker Freedom Festival in Kolkata on 'Democracy Now'.

A full transcript will be on there website soon here. This is how they reported the conference:

A Call to Action: Global Sex Workers Recommend Policy Change for Better HIV Prevention and Treatment

In 2011, sex workers participated in a global review of HIV policy through the UN sponsored Global Commission on HIV and the Law. Regional dialogues took place around the world, and sex workers rights groups advocated for reform of polices to improve HIV prevention and treatment for sex workers. In sex workers' statements from around the world, similar concerns were echoed, including funding restrictions that impede prevention for sex workers; the criminalisation of sex work and the dangerous public health situations it creates, such as reduced use of condoms and increased violence; the use of other discriminatory laws to repress and punish sex workers; the exclusion of migrant sex workers; and the increased targeting of clients of sex workers. This IAC Washington Symposium included panelists from the international sex workers rights movement, presenting policy reform recommendations to improve HIV prevention and treatment for sex workers.

SWFF features on 'Democracy Now'

(Skip to 10 minutes 20 seconds into the video)

The Sex Worker Freedom Festival featured in the headlines on the bulletin on Democracy Now.  They coverage featured both a story about US sex workers being targeted and having condoms confiscated as well as news about the SWFF conference.

Andrew Hunter, NSWP President stated:

"[The U.S.] are the largest funder for HIV services and providing anti-retroviral (ARV) medicines to people with HIV, yet they are completely hypocritical when it comes to the involvement of sex workers in — not only in the International AIDS Conference, but the role of sex workers in controlling the HIV epidemic globally. So, we are not allowed to go to their conference, but we’re also not allowed to get their money for HIV prevention programming."

Press Release - Sex Worker Freedom Festival

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Kolkata, 19 July 2012: With over 550 representatives of Sex Workers Collectives from across the world arriving for the first-ever Global Hub of the International AIDS Conference hosted and co-hosted by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, Global Network of Sex Workers (NWSP) and All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) respectively, “the time has come to deliberate the many violations and privations the sex workers community is facing in different parts of the world” stated Dr Jana, the chair. “This Conference which has been, for the last 25 years, a three-way dialogue between the scientists/planners, the people living with HIV and the most at risk communities has been thwarted for the first time by the U.S. Government,” he added.

Andrew Hunter, the President of NWSP, the Global Sex Workers Network said, “with the US now leading the fight for Lesbian, Gay and transgender equality we are extremely disappointed that they refuse to revise their restrictions on sex workers and refuse to recognise that we are human beings with basic rights.”

Ruth Morgan Thomas, the Global Coordinator of NSWP said “it is essential that sex workers be able to self organise in order to stop the AIDS epidemic and yet again the US Government prohibits funds being given to sex worker organisations, the most effective HIV prevention strategy, through the anti-prostitution pledge included in all donor contracts.”

Affirming this, M Bhagyalakshmi, president of the All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) stated that “the 5-day Global Hub will deliberate on the “Seven Freedoms” –the right to move, work, access to healthcare, participate, organise, be free of violence and discrimination - without which the community of sex workers cannot reduce their vulnerability to HIV.”

“The Sex Workers will strive to release the Kolkata Declaration which will be a platform that enables us to reclaim the rights that are due to us,” she added.