The article examines how language helps the construction of fictive kinships networks (family-like structures among marginalized populations) amongst Southwestern U.S. street-level sex workers. These networks establish ties and obligations - as well as power structures - between members of the community.
Sex workers are frequently omitted from discussions about the links between criminalisation, marginalisation, and increased HIV transmission. At the IAS 2010 conference in Vienna, substantial attention was focused on the negative impacts that criminalisation has on men who have sex with men, injection drug users, and people living with HIV—but very little on its effects on sex workers. Few outside of the Global Village explicitly called for decriminalisation of sex work or mentioned that laws criminalizing HIV transmission and exposure exacerbate the damage already being done to sex workers' health and rights. This article explores this omission, how other hard-hit constituencies have struggled for their place on the HIV/AIDS advocacy agenda, and why the HIV/AIDS field should be actively collaborating with sex workers' rights organisations, particularly on anti-criminalisation work.