NSWP Global Briefing Papers Published: Impact of Non-Rights Based HIV Programming and Sex Workers’ Access to HIV Treatment around the World

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The NSWP has published two new global briefing papers looking at the impact of non-rights based HIV programming and sex workers’ access to HIV treatment around the world.

In 2009, 33 million people were living with HIV, 68% of them in Africa. Globally, female sex workers are 13.5% more likely to be living with HIV than the general population (UNAIDS 2013). However, in many places sex workers’ rates of HIV are not known, whether due to insufficient research or due to sex workers’ own reluctance to document it for fear that the response will be to treat them as ‘vectors of disease’, rather than to focus attention on the broader socio-legal context which informs their HIV risk.

Sex workers constitute a key group affected by HIV, with multiple factors contributing to their vulnerability. Around the world, much HIV programming falls short of taking these factors into account and actively working towards their reduction. This failure can only result, at best, in temporary respite which privileges some sex workers over others, rather than serving to empower the sex worker community as a whole, enabling them to work safely and protect themselves.

Strategies currently in place in many countries to ostensibly protect sex workers (and/or the general public) from HIV are counterproductive in that, besides failing to take into account sex workers’ human rights, they actually put sex workers’ health at risk. Prime examples are mandatory and coercive testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as line testing and ‘100% Condom Use Programmes’. The following pages discuss these approaches in greater detail.

Stigma and discrimination lie behind many of the barriers sex workers face when seeking access to HIV treatment. Whorephobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and other prejudices, including prejudice against people living with HIV (PLHIV), may be espoused by health care staff and backed up by legal measures against sex workers, LGBT people, migrants and HIV-positive people. Furthermore, those who are unable to pay for private health care may be eligible only for limited treatment – or none at all. Access to life-saving HIV drugs is further complicated in many developing countries whose domestic supplies have been interfered with by international free trade regulations. The effects of these cannot be underestimated.

Follow the links below to view and download these two global briefing papers in English. The Chinese, French, Spanish and Russian versions will be available for download soon!

Global Briefing Paper: Sex Workers’ Access to HIV Treatment around the World

Global Briefing paper: The Impact of Non-Rights Based HIV Programming for Sex Workers around the World