Forging partnerships between sex workers and scientists is important.
July 9, 2013 by APNSW blog
Sex worker representatives from Asia Pacific region at the SWIT in Accra, Ghana, June 2013.
by: Tracey Tully
Recently, in June 2013, sixteen sex workers attended a consultation with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Accra Ghana to develop an implementation tool to operationalise the guidance on Prevention and treatment of HIV and other STIs for sex workers in low- and middle-income countries
. The meeting was supported by the Gates Foundation and USAID and of the 50 participants in attendance, one third were sex workers with extensive knowledge of sex worker HIV programming. NSWP held a pre-meeting the day before the consultation started. This enabled sex workers to critique each section of the draft, compile a list of non negotiable points and to develop a strategy for how we would approach the two day consultation. This “sex worker only” session is critical to getting the most out of the consultation. In fact, when NSWP or APNSW meet with UN on important consultations, we now insist on them funding a pre-meeting as a part of the overall process.
We found that most of our requests were considered reasonable and we managed to reach agreement on most things. Sex workers went in with a clear vision to not vie from the Guidance, or what has affectionately come to be known as the ‘Pink Book’. We tried not to get bogged down in word-smithing, instead opting for driving forward the principles behind our participation in developing The Pink Book. Two sex workers each engaged about a section and the feedback sessions from section consultations were presented by sex workers. It still remains to be seen whether what was agreed at the consultation is accurately reflected in the final document. We hope so and expect things to go as planned. It is important to retain the integrity of the process that has been demonstrated thus far.
SWIT consultation. Sex workers co-presented.
From the 30 June– 3 July 2013, the 7TH International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention
was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In the leadup to the conference was a two day community forum held with stakeholders from across the HIV sector. Andrew Hunter chaired a session on Day 1 entitledIAS 2013 Community Forum invitation TasP Implementation Science Research Agenda- Concept note
The meeting had attendees representing a diverse group of researchers, technical experts, policymakers and civil society representatives. Day two was the more community focused session
, so there were plenty of people in attendance from local groups. IAS 2013 Community Forum invitation
with Dr Rachel Baggaley of WHO on the experience of SWIT process and spoke briefly about the implications for sex worker organisations on the ground, of the PEPFAR pledge being struck down by the US Supreme Court. In the short term it will depend on US-based INGOs currently working with sex worker in low to middle income countries developing a policy that aspires to be sex worker led. We hope to see a gradual shift of power away from top-heavy programming models to models that recognise the intrinsic value of sex worker self determination. We will continue to lobby for International NGOs to be able to access PEPFAR funding and would ask USAID to consider the ethical implications of funding programmes that violate the free speech rights of anybody, anywhere. Shiba from APN+ presented on the threat TPP poses to generic medicines.
March against TPP which threatens access to affordable treatment
On the Day the main Conference conference began, Malaysian and regional HIV activists marched through the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and presented a memorandum to the President of the IAS seeking support to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that threaten access to life saving treatment. By the end of that day, IAS released a statement in support of our request. We even got coverage in the Washington Post. The fight to keep generic medicines on the market is under threat due to TPP and the danger posed by this agreement threatens not only access to affordable medicines for all, but our ability to end AIDS in Asia by 2015.
All in all, the this scientific conference was more community friendly than any held before. The session on Sex Work Research covered PrEP which is an issue worthy of input from sex workers. This was discussed extensively at the SWIT consultation in Ghana. It is probably not worth spending vast sums of money to send people this conference, but it is important to have some representation from your community to contribute to discussions. .