UNAIDS Writes Letter of Support to Amnesty International

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The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have written a letter of support to Amnesty International (AI). The letter commends Amnesty’s draft policy on the decriminalisation of sex work – described by UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, as a ‘critical rights issue’. Mr Sidibé writes:

‘In the past 30 years, UNAIDS has gathered evidence that clearly illustrates the human rights violations faced by sex workers, ranging from physical violence to the denial of health services. Across the world, these rights violations are making sex workers more vulnerable to HIV and worsening the impact of the epidemic among this population. Evidence shows that HIV prevalence among sex workers is 12 times greater than among the general population. Sex workers also experience extreme sexual violence – for example, a study in Adama, Ethiopia found that 60% of female sex workers reported work-related violence. We will not be able to end the AIDS epidemic and transform our societies as long as violence and violations remain.’

The letter in support of Amnesty’s draft policy came about thanks to the lobbying of UNAIDS by the African Sex Worker’s Alliance (ASWA). The alliance submitted a letter of support to Amnesty International on the 30th July – shortly after attacks on Amnesty intensified. ASWA is the pan-African alliance of sex work led organisations and allies that seeks to amplify the voices of sex workers in Africa, advocate for their health and human rights as well as call for the decriminalisation of sex work in the continent.ASWA writes:

60% of global criminalisation of sex workers is in Africa and sex workers face a myriad of challenges in accessing health services, legal redress and sexual and reproductive justice as well as social acceptance. The global human rights movement is now becoming more aware of the unique challenges that sex workers face including those who use and inject drugs as well as those who are living with HIV and those who are physically challenged.’

Amnesty International Council is set to vote on the draft policy in the next few days. A petition has been set up to gather support for Amnesty.

You can view the letter from UNAIDS Executive Director below.