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World Health Organisation recommendations on Prevention & Treatment of HIV/STIs for Sex Workers in low and middle income countries

NSWP welcomes the launch today of the ‘Prevention and Treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections for sex workers in low- and middle-income countries: Recommendations for a public health approach’. The guidance was developed jointly with WHO,UNFPA, UNAIDS and NSWP who conducted the qualitative survey of sex worker values and preferences relating to the interventions being considered.

The report is designed for use by national public health officials and managers of HIV/AIDS and STI programmes, NGOs and health workers, but will also be of interest to international funding agencies, health policy-makers and advocates. It  combines good practice recommendations derived from ethics and human rights principles, with technical evidence-based recommendations supported by scientific evidence AND the lived experiences of sex workers across the globe.

NSWP particularly welcomes the recommendations that governments should work towards the decriminalisation of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers which exacerbate sex workers vulnerability to HIV and STIs. In addition we welcome the recommendation that HIV prevention and treatment programmes need to include interventions to enhance community empowerment among sex workers that is sex worker-led and we particularly welcome the recommendation set out in the document that redefines the ethical use of periodic presumptive treatment (PPT) for sex workers.  It emphasises that PPT should only be used as an emergency short term measure under the strictest of conditions and while comprehensive sexual health services are being developed and that PPT must only be offered if its uptake is voluntary, not imposed as part of a coercive or mandatory public health regime.

NSWP welcomes new WHO recommendations on Prevention & Treatment of HIV/STIs for Sex Workers

NSWP welcomes the launch today of the ‘Prevention and Treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections for sex workers in low- and middle-income countries: Recommendations for a public health approach’. The guidance was developed jointly with WHO,UNFPA, UNAIDS and NSWP who conducted the qualitative survey of sex worker values and preferences relating to the interventions being considered.

The report is designed for use by national public health officials and managers of HIV/AIDS and STI programmes, NGOs and health workers, but will also be of interest to international funding agencies, health policy-makers and advocates. It  combines good practice recommendations derived from ethics and human rights principles, with technical evidence-based recommendations supported by scientific evidence AND the lived experiences of sex workers across the globe.

NSWP particularly welcomes the recommendations that governments should work towards the decriminalisation of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers which exacerbate sex workers vulnerability to HIV and STIs. In addition we welcome the recommendation that HIV prevention and treatment programmes need to include interventions to enhance community empowerment among sex workers that is sex worker-led and we particularly welcome the recommendation set out in the document that redefines the ethical use of periodic presumptive treatment (PPT) for sex workers.  It emphasises that PPT should only be used as an emergency short term measure under the strictest of conditions and while comprehensive sexual health services are being developed and that PPT must only be offered if its uptake is voluntary, not imposed as part of a coercive or mandatory public health regime. 

Good practice recommendations include:

  • All countries should work toward decriminalisation of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers
  • Governments should establish antidiscrimination and other rights respecting laws to protect against discrimination and violence, and other violations of rights faced by sex workers in order to realise their human rights and reduce their vulnerability to HIV infection
  • Health services should be made available, accessible and acceptable to sex workers based on the principles of avoidance of stigma, non-discrimination and the right to health
  • Violence against sex workers is a risk factor for HIV and must be prevented and addressed in partnership with sex workers and sex worker led organisations.

Technical recommendations include:

  • A package of interventions to enhance community empowerment among sex workers
  • Correct and consistent condom use among sex workers and their clients
  • Offering periodic screening for asymptomatic STIs to female sex workers
  • Offering female sex workers, in settings with high prevalence and limited clinical services, periodic presumptive treatment for asymptomatic STIs
  • Offering voluntary HIV testing and counselling to sex workers
  • Using the current WHO recommendations on the use of antiretroviral therapy for HIV-positive general populations for sex workers
  • Using the current WHO recommendations on harm reduction for sex workers who inject drugs
  • Including sex workers as targets of catch-up HBV immunisation strategies in settings where infant immunisation has not reached full coverage

These recommendations mark a significant advance in evidence-based guidelines for designing and implementing effective HIV and STI prevention and treatment interventions for sex workers.

You can download these recommendations (52 page PDF) in English below. 

You can read WHO's policy brief on these recommendations on their website here.

Protest against criminalisation proposals in France

Members of STRASS and other activists organised a demonstration on Friday 26th October, outside the Courthouse in Toulouse, France to protest against the proposals being brought forward to criminalise clients of sex workers and the crime of solicitation.

The event, held during the National Congress of the Socialist Party was part of ongoing action in the face of the plans of the French Minister for Women's Rights. 

The activists oppose the proposals and denounced the disastrous consequences they will cause including more violence, more infections and fewer rights.  They also released a list of demands which included that sex workers are actually consulted and involved in public policies that affect them and the repeal of the offence of soliciting and all laws that criminalise sex workers.

You can read more including the full list of demands (In French) in the press release below.

Download this resource: 

New UN report on Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific

  • Criminalisation of sex work increases vulnerability to HIV by fuelling stigma and discrimination, limits access to sexual health services and condoms.
  • Removing legal penalties for sex work allows HIV prevention and treatment programmes to reach sex workers and their clients more effectively.
  • There is no evidence that decriminalisation has increased sex work. 

These are some of the findings in an unprecedented study issued today by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Attempt to criminalise sex workers in Kyrgyzstan

The Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kyrgyzstan announced recently week that they intend to criminalise sex workers. 

The MIA prepared the draft of the law “On amendments to the Administrative Code of the Kyrgyz Republic”. The justification for these amendments are that 'prostitution is anti-social, directly linked to the spread of STIs, including HIV as well as spreading drug addiction and alcoholism'. The prospective punishment could be a fine or as much as 30 days in prison.

Tais Plus, along with partner organisations and rights defenders are campaigning against this initiative. 

Their activities include:

- Conducting public hearings in all regions of the country with the participation of sex workers, their allies and main stakeholders from the government

- Using the in-country consultation meeting devoted to the preparation to the Regional Consultation on HIV and Sex Work (5-6 of November 2012)

- Sex workers will develop and sign a petition to the MIA, Parliament & Ombudsman's Office

- Presenting and disseminating a report on sex workers' human rights violations

You can read more on this story (in Russian) here and here.

Online discussion - Engaging Men and Boys in Transforming Discriminatory Social Norms

Sonke Gender Justice Network, Men for Gender Equality Sweden, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Wikigender are holding an online discussion on the topic of "Engaging Men and Boys in Transforming Discriminatory Social Norms". The discussion will be open for comments starting on Monday October 22nd until October 31st.

Given Sweden’s role in promoting the criminalisation of clients this online discussion may be an opportunity for sex worker groups to challenge their position. PLEASE participate if you have time.

UK countries consult on further criminalisation

Two countries in the United Kingdom  - Scotland and Northern Ireland - are currently consulting on proposals to introduce legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex.

In Scotland, Rhoda Grant MSP (Labour) has launched a public consultation on her proposal for her private members bill, 'Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex (Scotland) Bill'.  The public consultation runs until 14th December.  You can download her consultation document on the Scottish Parliament's website here.  NSWP member organisation SCOT-PEP have been campaigning vigorously against the proposals and there will be updates on their website relating to the consultation as it progresses.

In Northern Ireland, Lord (Maurice) Morrow MLA (Democratic Unionist Party) has a consultation running until 18th October on his draft Human Trafficking & Exploitation (Further Provisions & Support for Victims) Bill which he has already drafted.  His Bill includes a range of measures aimed at tackling trafficking, but most disturbingly also includes the 'introduction of a new offence of paying for the sexual services of a prostitute'More information and the consultation paper can be found on the Northern Ireland Assembly website here.

Summary: The Criminalisation of Clients

This is a summary of the Criminalisation of Clients briefing paper. The criminalisation of sex workers’ clients is often claimed to be part of a new legal framework to eradicate sex work and trafficking by ‘ending demand’. In 1999, Sweden criminalised sex workers’ clients and maintained the criminalisation of third parties such as brothel-owners, managers, security and support staff. The individual selling of sex remained legal. This model is frequently referred to as the ‘Swedish’, ‘Nordic’ or ‘End Demand’ model. There is great pressure in many countries to advance such legal and policy measures. The damaging consequences of this model on sex workers’ health, rights and living conditions are rarely discussed.  

The Criminalisation of Clients

This briefing paper discusses the trend towards criminalisation of sex workers’ clients, a policy that is part of a new legal framework to eradicate sex work and trafficking by ‘ending demand’. In 1999, Sweden criminalised sex workers’ clients and maintained the criminalisation of third parties such as brothel-owners, managers, security and support staff. The individual selling of sex remained legal. This model is frequently referred to as the ‘Swedish’, ‘Nordic’ or ‘End Demand’ model. There is great pressure in many countries to advance such legal and policy measures. The damaging consequences of this model on sex workers’ health, rights and living conditions are rarely discussed. A  summary is also available.