A series of sex worker trainings held across Central and Eastern Europe

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Europe Regional Correspondent

Across the Central and Eastern European region, several workshops have been held within the last month, focusing on STI prevention, human rights and sex worker activism, and highlighting the need for sex worker involvement in programmes and projects established on their behalf.

NSWP member, the Sex Workers' Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN), a network of civil society organisations and sex worker-led groups and organisations based in Budapest, Hungary, reported back from the trainings at its website.

In Skopje, in the Republic of Macedonia, 16 sex workers attended a two-day training from the 31st May  to 1st June. Organised by Macedonian organisation STAR with support from the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE), the training on HIV, Human Rights and Sex Work Activism consisted of five sessions: Human rights and presenting cases of violence; Sex Work activism; HIV vulnerability among sex workers; Access to HIV testing and treatment; Community empowerment, and Advocacy statement's development.

In Tblisi, Georgia, from the 11th to the 12th of June, 30 participants, including a representative from Women for Freedom, community members and medical professionals, attended a training on STI prevention and the approaches recommended in the SWIT (Implementing comprehensive HIV/STI programmes with sex workers) towards the implementation of clinical and supportive services for sex workers.

From the 17th to 18th of June, 15 participants from the Ukraine and one from Georgia attended a training in Kiev, Ukraine. Organised by UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund in Ukraine) in cooperation with the Ukranian organisation, Legalife, the training focused on building awareness among sex workers of STI prevention and familiarisation with approaches to implementation of clinical and support services packages for sex workers advocated by WHO, UNFPA, NSWP and the World Bank, and to improve the capacities of sex workers, outreach workers and community-led sex worker organisations to address STI issues in line with SWIT (Implementing comprehensive HIV/STI programmes with sex workers).

Legalife’s Executive Director, Elena Tsukerman, said that: "The participants discussed a lot about the need to integrate innovative services for sex workers into the existing programmes and projects for sex workers, which need to take into account the knowledge of our community members, human rights and sex workers' interests. This means that both the dialogue, equal partnership and joint activities with sex workers should have been accepted by the state, considered relevant, binding and incontestably important for the health of the entire Ukrainian society long ago. Only such action can stop the epidemic.”

Tsukerman also said that the training emphasised the lack of involvement of sex workers in the discussion of these issues.

“The work done during the training and discussions confirmed the need to strengthen the sex workers' community locally. The work must be carried out with representatives of the Ministry of Health, directly with doctors who provide services to sex workers, and officials (especially from the Ministry of Health) in order to attract their attention to the problems of the Ukrainian society which appeared due to insufficient involvement of sex workers' community into development and implementation of the programs aimed at diagnosis, prevention and treatment of HIV/STIs in the Ukraine. Also, a lot of participants highlighted the importance of sex workers' presence in trainings for doctors, journalists, joint actions and other advocacy activities held in cooperation with partners and decision makers (in the round tables, seminars, conferences, etc.)".

"The main message the participants of the training took home was: sex workers’ health is society’s heath,” she concluded.