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Globally sex workers experience a number of barriers to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, ranging from explicit exclusion from international financing to discrimination within SRH services leading to lower access rates.

This paper discusses the obstacles sex workers face when accessing SRH services, and examines the quality of services available to them. It also provides practical examples and recommendations for improving the accessibility and acceptability of SRH services for sex workers.

Theme: Health

This briefing paper explores sex workers' experiences of HIV and STI testing and treatment programmes from a global perspective. Sex workers are rarely included in the development and implementation of programming. Programming that does exist often violates the rights of sex workers. Through case studies and interviews, this briefing paper demonstrates there is a need for greater investment in appropriate, high-quality, rights-based services, and research led by sex workers in order to meet the specific needs of this population.

Theme: Health

This community-based research by the Sex Workers' Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN) is about sex workers’ experiences of state and non-state violence, and hindered attempts to access justice in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The study was undertaken in sixteen countries of our region, with local research teams comprised of sex workers and allies joining efforts. It provides an insight on how stigma and the criminalization of sex work enables daily violence and repression that sex workers face from police and non-state actors. This entails barriers to accessing legal aid and justice, as well as harm reduction, health or social services.

Theme: Violence

Sixty-five sex workers were arrested on Thursday 19th November in Kisii County, Kenya. The following day, the sex workers were taken to Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital and tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The leading officer from the Kisii Governor’s Office, Mr. Patrick Lumumba, stated there were too many sex workers loitering the streets of Kisii, “spreading HIV and STIs to married men”.

Sex workers constitute a key population affected by HIV, with multiple factors contributing to their vulnerability. Around the world, HIV programming falls short of taking these factors into account and actively working towards their reduction. Sex workers are put at risk of exposure to HIV by criminalisation; violence; unsafe working conditions; violations of their human rights; stigma, discrimination and social marginalisation; drug and alcohol use; unequal access to appropriate health services; minimal access to HIV prevention tools (such as safe sex supplies and safer injecting equipment); barriers to negotiation of safe sex with clients; offers of higher fees for unprotected sex; and an absence of HIV-related information targeted at sex workers, due to insufficient funding for rights-based and sex worker led programming.  This Briefing Paper discusses these in detail.