HIV Coalition urges decriminalization of sex work

Published: December 25, 2012

In its announcement of the new guidelines, WHO notes that violence against sex workers is a risk factor for HIV and "must be prevented and addressed in partnership with sex workers and sex worker-led organizations." WHO recommends that "health services should be made available, accessible and acceptable to sex workers based on the principles of avoidance of stigma, non-discrimination and the right to health."

 Olena Davis, chairperson of the All-Ukrainian Coalition of HIV-service Organizations, said of the new WHO guidelines: “We have studied the new guidelines and were greatly encouraged by the fact that they were obviously drafted with great sensitivity and understanding of the problems that HIV-service organizations in this country and around the world face on a daily basis.”

 Among the WHO recommended interventions for sex workers are: the promotion of correct and consistent condom use; offering sex workers HIV testing and counselling; offering periodic screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections to female sex workers: initiating HIV-positive sex workers on antiretroviral treatment; and using WHO recommendations on harm reduction for sex workers who inject drugs.

Davis added: “Sex workers are almost invariably women who have suffered a catastrophic loss of income because of a partner who refuses child support or some similar difficulty. These women need assistance and understanding, not condemnation and criminalization.

 “With the help of progressive-minded members of the previous parliament, particularly MP Tatiana Bakhteyeva, chair of the Rada health committee, we have made some progress on bringing law related to HIV-AIDS into compliance with internationally accepted standards of best practice. However, we still have a very long way to go.

“That is why we believe advocacy of Ukrainian laws and regulations that track the new WHO guidelines should be an important goal for the entire HIV-AIDS community in the months and years ahead.”

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