About the Call
In July 2012, more than 30,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. for the International AIDS Conference. As the largest global health and development conference ever, the IAC provides unique opportunities to understand the critical intersection between protecting human rights and stopping HIV/AIDS. This conference has long invited affected populations, including sex workers, to directly inform and confront policies on HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, U.S. immigration law barred anyone who has “engaged in prostitution” from entering the country. Global sex workers, one of the populations most affected by HIV/AIDS, were denied participation in IAC 2012 by US policy.
Sex workers recognize that this and other US policies are making the AIDS crisis worse for sex workers. In 2011, the United Nations engaged in a Universal Periodic Review of the U.S.’ human rights record, and sex workers mobilized to inform the U.N. of the devastating human rights abuses sex workers face within the United States. Sex workers went to the U.N., met with member nations and made an official statement to the United Nations. The U.S. received Recommendation 86, calling on the Obama Administration to “…ensure access to public services paying attention to the special vulnerability of sexual workers to violence and human rights abuses.” Sex workers mobilized a large coalition to convince lawmakers to accept Recommendation 86. In response, the U.S. released its report to the U.N., saying, “We agree that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution.” On March 18th, the U.S. formally endorsed Recommendation 86, but it has yet to live up to the promise of policy reform.
This ongoing project, “A Call to Change U.S. Policy on Sex Work and HIV,” launched immediately preceding the 2012 IAC, renews this demand for policy reform. The “Call” was written by U.S. sex workers of many income levels, ethnicities, and genders, and sex workers rights organizations, in solidarity with international sex workers, whose lives are deeply affected by U.S. policy. Organizations who contributed include BAYSWAN, Best Practices Policy Project, Desiree Alliance, Different Avenues, HIPS, Sex Workers Outreach Project (national, NYC and Chicago chapters), Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center, St. James Infirmary and Women With A Vision.
These policies are damaging our communities, and policy changes are needed to save sex workers’ lives in the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This statement seized the extraordinary opportunity of IAC 2012 and now continues to stand up to human rights violations and stand for expanded access to treatment and prevention.
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