Nothing about us without us

Published: June 17, 2013

My name is Anastacia, I am 25 years old and I live in Scotland. I work for the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP). As a policy officer, I am responsible for advocacy and campaigns focusing on sex work and HIV. Criminalisation and legal oppression of sex work worldwide leads to numerous violations of the human rights of sex workers. This creates a climate of fear and stigma that prevents sex workers from seeking their full entitlement to the human rights enjoyed by others. Criminalisation justifies widespread discrimination against sex workers leading to violence against them. They often become targets for the unjust practices used by law officials, health service professionals and others that abuse their power.
 
In 2012, NSWP organised the Sex Worker Freedom Festival, the alternative International AIDS Conference event for sex workers and allies, in India. We held a four day space specifically for HIV positive sex workers. Over the meeting, the sense of frustration and anger about issues affecting their lives grew. Violations of rights include abusive testing practices, mandatory registration of sex workers living with HIV, forced sterilisation, termination of pregnancies, and lack of access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). It was during these sessions that HIV positive sex workers demanded recognition of their voices and experiences in the conversations that directly impact upon their lives. This was the start of NSWP+, a platform within NSWP for HIV positive sex workers and others committed to treatment access and equal rights for sex workers living with HIV. I was involved in setting up the platform.
 
 Sex workers are the experts in their own lives
 
The work I do as a sex workers’ rights activist at the global level is fully informed by the voices and experiences of sex workers living with HIV across the network. Patience Nikomo, an HIV positive sex worker living in Zimbabwe, was one of the persons involved in building NSWP+. I also collaborated with Patience and others to establish the African Sexworker Alliance (ASWA+). In Patience’s country, for example, condoms are seen as evidence for soliciting for prostitution, and are therefore often destroyed by law enforcement agents. This jeopardises HIV prevention efforts. The fact that sex work is criminalised in Zimbabwe puts sex workers at risk to many sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

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