Draft Reworking of the UNAIDS Guidance Note on HIV and Sex Work

A reworking of the UNAIDS Guidance Note on Sex Work and HIV, as prepared by the Working Group in Delhi, September 16-20, 2007.

This has been sent to UNAIDS, with a covering letter clearly outlining our concerns with the original guidance note, and suggestions for how UNAIDS should work with sex worker networks and other civil society organisations in order to move forward with a workable, rights based, evidence informed policy on sex work and HIV.

The Working Group held a meeting in Delhi in September 2007, with the support of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, to reformulate the UNAIDS policy so that it was consistent with the evidence of what works when addressing HIV in commercial sex settings, and consistent with UN human rights treaties and programming principles.
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Draft Reworking of the UNAIDS Guidance Note on HIV and Sex Work


11 Responses to Draft Reworking of the UNAIDS Guidance Note on HIV and Sex Work

  1. sexworkpolicy says:

    Please read and post comments so that the working group can begin incorporating feedback.

  2. Jachkeliye Satyagraha says:

    Would you please post the names of the members of the Working Group?


  3. Enrico Caja says:

    Great initiative! However, converting a “paper”document into action remains a major challenge. Convincing government’s to “even” consider the term SEX WORK as a legal meanse of livelihood or even part of their vocabulary remains to be seen. It will take time though for Asian countries to even acknowledge the existence of the sex industry in their areas, even though some benefits directly or inderectly from the said trade.

    This is just the first step and it will be a long road ahead for those who are involved. To be “heard” is everybody’s right.

    Who exactly are involved? How far will UNAIDS support such a move?

    All the best!

    Enrico M. Caja
    GIPA (Ho Chi Minh City)
    City Women’s Union
    (With Support from the United Nations)
    71 Vo Thi Sau, Dist. III, Ho Chi Minh City

  4. Suksma Ratri says:

    how hard it is, we must not stop. we need to drive UNAIDS to realize that changes in the guidance are ultimately necessary.

  5. Mabel Bianco says:

    This draft Guidance Note does a good job of focusing on the need for improved economic and social opportunities for sex workers and pointing out inequalities such as lack of housing, access to education, banking services and control of family assets as issues that need to be addressed. It would be good to also cite examples of discrimination experienced still in many countries such as Argentina like a transvestite fired from her teaching post at a secondary school because of pressure from students’ parents, even though she was a good professor. The example is important to reinforce pillar 3 about the need to expand choices. Finally, the list of tangible interventions included in the document is significant because it is important to give specific guidelines for governments to take action. It is an excellent document!

    Mabel Bianco

  6. Thank you to all people who participated on preparation of the document and also to all supporters. I strongly believe decision makers in UNAIDS will be open to all remarks, changes and recommendations you did.
    Great job!

  7. swirl says:

    Providing condoms and HIV prevention programs for sex workers is logical for the good of human health worldwide. Even those who disagree with us on all other issues should see that a “harm reduction” policy is their best chance at preventing the spread of HIV.

  8. He-Jin Kim says:

    I read the draft on the go, I will read it more thoroughly later. I think the Working Group did a great job on this!

    There is one thing I would like to point out:

    Transgender sex workers are included in this draft which is (of course) very good, however maybe it would be good to state some reason behind why they face additional barriers etc.? Since these things are often looked over. Maybe linking economic barriers with the needed medical treatment etc.? Also currently HIV prevention in transgender communities is framed within MSM (men who have sex with men) discourses, which I believe to be a problem.

    Anyways, I don’t know if this is the right place to point out these things.

  9. swoplv says:

    Bravo! Excellent work.

    A rights-based approach has been considered best practices for just about any project, because it is the most successful. Why anything less would be considered mysitifes me and puts way too many people in danger.

    It is urgent that UN policies reflect proven approaches and RESPECT peoples’ choices (even if they are constrained). Work to better economic conditions around the globe- not end a livelihood. After all, in the UN Declaration of Human Rights states:

    Article 23.
    (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

    Susan Lopez-Embury
    Desiree Alliance

  10. Jenn Clamen says:

    Stella is a sex workers’ organization based in Montreal, Quebec (Canada.) We provide information, support and rights-defense to women working in the sex industry. Our goal is to help sex-workers improve our work- and living- conditions, and as such we concentrate much of our efforts on denouncing and preventing violence against sex workers. We also make it a priority to combat the societal prejudices and stigmatization of those living with HIV/AIDS.

    We appreciate the work that this global committee has done to bring the rights of sex workers to the attention of policy makers. We were extremely concerned about the original UNAIDS Guidance Note that focused on the elimination of the sex industry, rather than improving the life and working conditions for sex workers.

    The old Guidance Note was an example of the ignorance and miseducation around HIV and AIDS. This new Guidance note created by the Global Working Group underscores the importance of sex workers’ contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS and the need to focus on working conditions and HIV prevention, rather than the elimination of sex work. We applaud you all and thank you for this contribution to a policy that affects us all.

    Jenn Clamen, Mobilization and Communications Coordinator
    for Stella, l’amie de Maimie (Montreal, Canada)

  11. International agencies, HIV and sex work: A perspective

    Tragic as it is the AIDS epidemic has nevertheless been a landmark event and
    process in shaping attitudes to sex work, has galvanised action and brought
    many new allies into the struggle for sex work advocacy.

    The role of agencies like the UN have been contentious, since the UN does not
    speak with one voice on this and there are many agencies which have some
    responsibility and involvement in sex work. An example of this is the
    observation that people on both sides of the issue claim support for their
    views by citing UN documents. A more nuanced approach requires a careful
    reading of the actual documents and an understanding of the political forces
    that shape policy. In the past UN agencies have produced useful resources, fora
    for sex workers? voices and space for advancing sex workers’ rights.

    The most recent exchange this week over international programmes in the pages of
    Public Library of Science Medicine (PLOSM) between Nicole Masenior and Chris
    Beyrer on one side and Jay Silverman and Michele Decker on the other appears
    fortuitously in the wake of the difficulties surrounding the UNAIDS Guidance
    document on HIV from April of this year. This document was supposed to provide
    that missing unified voice of UN agencies, but which was widely seen within the
    sex work community as representing a radical departure from earlier progressive
    discourses within the agencies, and a major concession to the prohibitionist
    position of US Administration policy.

    A number of themes appear in the exchange in PLOSM, the common concerns for the welfare of people in sex work and with HIV/AIDS, the highly contextual nature of sex
    work constraining generalisations, and the agreement that both coercion and forced migration of human beings and sexual exploitation of children are unacceptable. The lack of definitive data is also apparent.

    Masenior and Beyrer tactfully point out that Silverman?s work is funded by the US anti-trafficking programme but decline to comment on the fact that many of the facts quoted as generalisations by the respondents are derived from he methodologically and ethically contentious work of Melissa Farley. We might dispute whether dialogue is actually possible, but emphasising the need for reliable data and the common ground might be a starting point.

    Amongst other concerns regarding the new UN position is the apparent absence of
    evidence that the voice of sex workers and their lived realities were playing
    any part in informing policy, and a variety of thoughtful responses have

    The response from the Global Working Group on HIV and Sex Work Policy, essentially a rewrite of the Guidance incorporating a framework in which the voice, agency and capacity of sex workers themselves is instrumental, is very welcome. It is crucial that the viewpoint of the Global Working Group receive wide circulation and discussion if UNAIDS policy is to be redirected towards more constructive ends.

    For those not familiar with these developments, I have grouped many of the
    documents and papers here:

    including all the documents referred to above.

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