Why sex workers and young people mustn't be left behind
In Eastern Europe & Central Asia, reaching zero new infections, discrimination and AIDS deaths means protecting sex workers’ human rights
People usually say “so what, she’s a whore,” says Galina, a young sex worker from Kazakhstan. Criminalisation of prostitution, extortion and extreme discrimination in health care settings make sex workers one of the most vulnerable populations to HIV. Eastern Europe and Central Asia has the world’s second highest pooled prevalence of HIV among sex workers, at 10.9%. IPPF European Network Member Associations have been out in the field to document the hideous human rights abuses that sex workers face every day in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and Russia.
Extreme gender based violence, including rape and beatings by police and clients are systematic in all four countries. Criminalisation of sex workers gives perpetrators of violence a sense of impunity and blocks sex workers from seeking help. “Sex workers usually don’t report violence ... because they don’t believe that they will get help,” says Vicky Claeys, IPPF EN Regional Director. Sex workers simply don’t trust police officers or health providers because of pervasive abuse. Marginalisation and terror means that sex workers cannot get crucial health care services, including sexual and reproductive health services and HIV prevention, treatment and care.
NGOs try to provide stigma-free services but alone they cannot cover the need. IPPF EN is committed to making public health services a safe environment for sex workers and to addressing factors fuelling their vulnerability. Sixteen IPPF Member Associations in Europe and Central Asia have outreach programmes for sex workers. Another 14 have behaviour change and communication campaigns for sex workers. Eleven Member Associations are working to counter criminalisation of sex work.
This World AIDS Day (December 1, 2013), the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network is pleased to present a set of HIV Report Cards for Sex Workers in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. We must give sex workers a voice so that they can advocate for their own rights. The reports, produced in cooperation with the Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN) and the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), are designed to stimulate dialogue around the promotion of rights and health of sex workers.
Raising awareness around the EN region on World AIDS Day
Talk HIV, Test HIV: Several IPPF Member Associations got involved in European HIV Testing Week 2014, helping to make more people in their countries aware of their HIV status and reduce late diagnosis by communicating the benefits of HIV testing. Awareness-raising activities included launches of mobile apps, press conferences and offering free, anonymous HIV testing with speeded up availability of results. The week ran from 21-28 November.