Sex worker living with HIV targeted in Bolivia: worrying trend evident
A sex worker living with HIV in Bolivia has been sentenced to house arrest, due to her job and sero-status. A spokeswoman from a local sex worker-led organisation, said, "Confidentiality was violated and this is a case of discrimination. Moreover ... we get no help at all, not even counselling”, noting "[the woman in the case] didn’t know anything about HIV. She agreed to have a rapid test but was surprised by the result."
The head of Bolivia's National HIv/AIDS Programme stated, "The lady should not have continued working, but we need to look at why she continued exposing her clients to infection”. This problematically assumes that sex workers living with HIV are expected to stop working. This is in contravention of statements by UNAIDS, as well as demands of HIV+ sex workers globally: sex workers living with HIV can still work!
This ruling criminalises sex workers, as well as people living with HIV - especially given that no HIV transmission was proven in this case. In effect, it undermines committments to voluntary testing and treatment, as a sex worker who is living with HIV, but who hasn't been tested and thus doesn't know their sero-status, will be criminalised for that lack of knowledge. The court-imposed treatment in this case is also concerning. Testing and treatment should always be voluntary.
The AIDS Alliance noted, "What happened in Bolivia is not an isolated event, but one more painful symptom of a trend towards the criminalisation of HIV transmission in Latin America ... Some officials, who have barely finished reading and understanding the new WHO guidelines, use the concept of 'treatment as prevention' to maintain that 'anyone who does not seek treatment transmits and is therefore dangerous'. This represents an extreme expression of the effects of the medicalisation of the fight against AIDS."
You can read more on this story from the AIDS Alliance, here.