Newly published WHO tool reaffirms the importance of sex worker-led HIV programming
The World Health Organization have published an important new document, reaffirming that the health of sex workers doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and that countries should work towards the decriminalisation of sex work, and the empowerment and self-determination of sex working communities, as a fundamental part of the fight against HIV.
The document emphasises that states should take this approach because to work towards decriminalisation, and to invest sex workers with the powers of self-determination, is both right, and effective; and these two aspects are inseparable. Or, as the WHO put it, “investing in community empowerment is not only the right thing to do, but makes good sense”. The document will be an important advocacy tool for sex workers all over the world: the recommendations apply to low and middle income countries, but the document states: “the principles that underlie this tool, and the operational approaches it presents, are no less relevant to high-income countries, and should be seen as a minimum global standard”. The World Health Organization therefore sees full decriminalisation as a minimum global standard.
The document is authored by the World Health Organization, together with UNFPA, UNAIDS, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) and the World Bank. It is a comprehensive global tool aiming to offer guidance on how to implement the WHO’s 2012 recommendations on HIV and sex work. It emphasises the importance of implementation at a grassroots level, led by local sex workers and local sex working collectives, as well as highlighting the importance of sex workers influencing HIV policy at national and international levels, through sex worker-led networks.
The tool contains short case studies of best practise from around the world, which highlight the crucial importance of the sex worker rights movement. For example, it discusses sex worker-led HIV programming in India, by SANGRAM, and the important south-south links formed by sex worker-led organisations looking to share knowledge and building capacity within sex working communities of the global south, specifically the India-Kenya exchange facilitated by NSWP.
Topics covered include:
- The principles that have to underlie effective HIV programming, namely sex worker-led communities implementing sex work-designed programmes; what sex worker-led means in practise and how to facilitate the formation of strong sex worker-led organisations;
Addressing violence against sex workers;
How to implement recommended condom and lubricant programming, and other healthcare interventions for HIV prevention, treatment and care;
How to manage programmes and build the capacity of sex worker-led organisations.
The tool is available for download here.