Highlights at the International AIDS Conference, Mexico City 2008

Firstly, the sex worker delegation made a great appearance. We managed to finally have UNAIDS respond to our continuing demands concerning the UN Guidance note on HIV and Sex Work. Which is a great achievement, we lobbied and worked hard to have meaningful participation of sex workers in re-drafting this guidance note to include the lives and rights of sex workers, but were ignored… until the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network presented the Asia-Pacific Network of Sex Workers with and award for our work on this matter. So now come the process in making sure it’s not just saving face for UNAIDS but actual meaningful involvement of sex workers in the process and decisionmaking. (more information and all the documents on this can be found on http://www.nswp.org)

Secondly, we accumulated a lot of publicity on the current situation in Cambodia. There a new anti-trafficking law (not very different than the on adopted in South-Korea in 2004) was taken in after pressure from the USA. After this law a giant crackdown on sex workers occurred, they have been arrested and locked up in the same camps used by Khmer Rouge, often withour proper drinking water, food, etc. They’re being abused by the police, raped, etc. (if you want more information message me and I will email you some documents). In light of that our statements “Sex work is work”, “Save us from our saviors” and “don’t talk to me about sewing machines, talk to me about rights” resonated clearly.

Thirdly, My poster presentation “Transgendercide: the Impact of conceptualizing transgenders as men who have sex with men” got specific mention in the final rapporteur session. Also the session that I chaired on Male/Transgender sex workers was the first ever at an International AIDS conference in it’s entire history and received good attention. I think we did a great job in stating that transgenders are not gay men (or men who have sex with men), that transgenders are women and have a right to self-determination, that transgender women should have access to women’s health resources and that current policies are inadequate as they make transgenders invisible.

We still have a long way to go, but at this conference we did a lot in ensuring people start listening to sex workers and trans people.


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