Robert Carr Research Award Goes to Project to Improve Sex Worker Safety

The inaugural RobertCarr Research Award has been given to a four-country research project that aims to increase security and safety for sex workers.

Named for the Jamaican/Trinidadian human rights and HIV/AIDS activist who passed away in 2011, the Robert Carr Research Award recognises a research project conducted by a community-academia partnership that has led to evidence-based programmes and/or influenced policies in the field of HIV to guide a human rights-based response. Carr was also the executive director of Jamaica AIDS Support, and founder and Executive Director of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition.

The award is a joint initiative of the International AIDS Society (IAS), the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO), Human Rights Watch and the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights, and is sponsored by the IAS, ICASO, the Open Society Foundations and the Robert Carr Fund for civil society networks. The award has been established with the intention of continuing Carr’s vision of collaboration between community, academic researchers and advocates to advance human rights-based policies and practices.

Described as an “exceptional, collaborative research project that brought together sex worker communities, sex work rights advocates, the United Nations, researchers and governments from four Asia Pacific countries,” the research project SexWork and Violence: Understanding Factors for Safety and Protection was selected as the first recipient of the award.

Chris Beyrer, incoming President of the International AIDS Society and Director of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that the project “stood out as an entry because of the participation of sex workers throughout the research process; a population that is often neglected by research or difficult to reach.”

The project was overseen by a regional steering committee that included NSWP members SANGRAM’s Centre for Advocacy on Stigma and Marginalisation; the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and Partners for Prevention, a joint UN initiative working on gender-based violence.

Sex worker community groups were included at the national level. Research was led by a local sex work organisation and the UN country teams, and done in a participatory way that included sharing the initial analysis with the communities researched to ensure that their experiences were authentically reflected in the interpretations of the data.

Meena Seshu, Director of SANGRAM, said“the high and diverse number of stakeholders involved in the process also set the project apart. It embodies the spirit of collaborative work of different actors working together towards one goal: to increase the security and safety of sex workers, and to create an enabling environment that will allow them to access their rights as citizens to safe working conditions.”

Sex Work and Violence: Understanding Factors for Safety and Protection, will be announced at the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia during the Robert Carr Memorial Lecture on July 21, 2014 at 18:30.