Fight against HIV empowers the sex workers for social reforms

The fight against HIV has laid a way for much wider social reforms in India. An observation made by Mr. Prasada Rao who is the UN secretary general’s new envoy for Aids in the Asia Pacific region has ruled that the HIV epidemic has forced the Indian government to begin talking with those communities that were marginalized a few decades back. He further said that before the advent of HIV nobody ever cared for or thought of about these groups that consists of sex workers, MSM (Men having sex with men) and transgender population.

Mr. Prasada Rao has in the past made his first trip to a brothel in Mumbai as the head of the India’s National Aids Control Organisation in the late 1990’s. At that time he observed that there was no self confidence in these groups as of now seen. HIV in an indirect way has contributed in empowering these social groups. Hundreds of sex workers from around the world have attended the alternative summit known as “sex workers freedom festival” this week in Kolkata in response to US visa restrictions that prevented them traveling to the International Aids Conference or IAC being held in Washington DC.

This summit is being organized by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee and the Global Network of Sex Works Projects. This Kolkata conference is being held under the banner of “Save us from Saviors” that is expected to be the largest global gathering of sex workers ever and is dubbed as an official IAC “hub”. This summit will be connected to Washington through a video link. The agenda of this summit is quiet independent that focuses on key freedoms such as-

  • Freedom to move and migrate,
  • Access to quality healthcare,
  • Freedom from stigma and discrimination.

Sex workers and drug users are prohibited from travelling to the U.S. under the moral turpitude restrictions. Mr. Prasada Rao praised Kolkata’s sex workers with developing some of the most successful HIV prevention programs. At the same time, he criticized the governments who apply aggressive anti-trafficking laws that fail to distinguish between trafficking and voluntary adult sex work.  A study published in the Lancet medical journal found female sex workers to be almost fourteen times more susceptible to HIV infection than other women in low and middle income countries.

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