Report from IAC 2014

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Australian sex worker network and NSWP member Scarlet Alliance published their report: ‘Stepping up to the evidence on HIV and Sex Work: Decriminalise Sex Work Now! Sex Workers at AIDS 2014’  last week. This much anticipated report demonstrates the strong sex worker presence at the 20th International AIDS Conference - AIDS 2014 in Melbourne, July 2014. APNSW, NSWP and Scarlet Alliance jointly hosted the Sex Worker Networking Zone. As local, regional and global representatives of sex workers and sex worker organisations, the three organisations worked together to raise awareness about the pressing issue of severely limited opportunities for sex worker inclusion, representation and participation to the conference.

This report pulls together the key themes and issues on sex work from the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) held during July, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. Quotes, summaries and highlights of sex worker sessions, workshops, performances and actions have been included to showcase the sex worker perspectives and responses to key issues relating to HIV, human rights and sex work. Included are the ‘Sex Worker Consensus Statement’ developed and agreed to by over 100 workers from 30 different countries who attended the sex worker pre-conference at AIDS 2014.

Sex workers’ participation at international and regional HIV/AIDS conferences always falls short of the commitment to address HIV/AIDS (as expressed by international donors and agencies). Restrictions on travel for sex workers and a lack of scholarships for sex workers to attend conferences are two major barriers to sex workers entering spaces where their lives are being discussed.

Janelle Fawkes writes:

Evaluation has demonstrated significant shortfalls in the percentage of abstracts accepted for sex worker speakers at previous conferences and this was no different. What needs to change to tip the framework upside down? To  ensure that we don’t rely on ad hoc processes with a couple of individuals being selected by a funder to liven up  their panel. Instead abstracts by sex workers should make it through the  review process because the system gives  merit to sex worker voices and analysis being heard on every panel and that when the list of essential delegates is developed sex worker names are on the list.

This report is an important contribution as we as sex workers document our achievements alongside the problems and create a platform for our voices and our community’s voices to be heard clearly above the hype. As you review  the report I hope you will consider the initiative and major effort by each sex worker  that made it to the conference with many self-funding to attend, camping out at immigration offices to push along visa applications, pooling and sharing resources and against the odds coming out with such essential contributions.