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.