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.
Meanwhile, Member Associations marked World AIDS Day with activities including non-religious memorial services in Helsinki and a call for solidarity in the Belgian Flemish Parliament with policy-makers and HIV/AIDS campaigners from Ecuador and Burundi. IPPF EN regional office helped raise awareness in Brussels by handing out ribbons in the European Parliament with civil society partners.
IPPF’s global call for more youth-friendly services
On World AIDS Day, IPPF calls on the international community to introduce more youth-friendly services in response to HIV to ensure young people are not left behind. Stigma, discrimination and a lack of knowledge remain huge barriers for adolescents around the world. Globally, HIV remains a key cause of mortality in 10 to 19 year-olds, many of whom are unable to access services which provide HIV testing, treatment and other vital support services.
Today we have the largest ever generation of adolescents on the planet - 1.2 billion. The most recent data shows that 2.1 million of these young people are living with HIV, the vast majority are in sub-Saharan Africa where HIV prevalence is particularly high among adolescent girls. The figures indicate that services are still not reaching those who are the most vulnerable to HIV.
Adolescents shouldn’t be denied access, rights or opportunities. They should be empowered to take control over their bodies, through increased knowledge about sexual health and rights, and increased access to sexual and reproductive health services.
IPPF has a proud history of working on the areas of youth participation, youth empowerment, and youth leadership, along with a focus on youth friendly services and comprehensive sexuality education, both in and out of school. In fact, half of IPPF’s services are taken up by people under 25.
Inclusive, comprehensive and integrated services are the way forward. Services should be dictated by need, at the furthest outposts and delivered without judgement.
Alan Smith, IPPF’s Senior HIV Advisor said:
“We believe that young people, in all their diversity, are entitled to a positive and respectful approach to their sexuality and sexual relationships, and that they have a right to have pleasurable and safe sexual experiences.
“So, on World AIDS Day 2014, we renew our commitment to an AIDS free world, by ensuring that no one, especially adolescents, is left behind.”