_Sex Workers Action



Sex worker rights perspective on 100% condom use programmes 

The Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) organised a demonstration outside the offices of UNAIDS on Thursday. NSWP was protesting the promotion of "100% condom use programmes" as a best practice. UNAIDS and other leading HIV institutions are promoting these as a "best practice". NSWP was formed in 1991 and since then has enabled sex workers and NGOs in more than 40 countries to share information, influence policy, and support the meaningful involvement of sex workers in programme-planning and policy-making processes in HIV prevention and care.

According to NSWP representatives, sex workers organisations have had no role in any aspect of developing these programmes and policies at local or international level.

According to Carole Jenkins, HIV Advisor to USAID, "the bottom line is that affected and vulnerable communities have to have a voice in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programmes. Practically speaking, when/if someone accuses a programme of abuse or misconduct, the only safeguard you have is the real and democratic participation of the affected communities." 

According to NSWP, through these 100% condom use programmes, brothels owners "require" sex workers to use condoms and ensure that all their workers are identified, registered and present for mandatory STD testing. Condom training and information are meant to be available to women. These programmes don't work, NSWP says. They are leading to a range of human rights abuses such as women being taken to STD clinics under police "escort" and photos of women being displayed so that men can identify any woman who he alleges infected him or agreed to sex without a condom with him. 

Typically, these programs are supervised by a local committee of "police military and local authorities." They send men to the brothels to pose as clients to try to entrap women into providing a service without a condom. The women are meant to refuse to have sex with a client who doesn't want to use a condom and return his money to him, even if he has already had time with her (just because the client hasn't had penetrative sex, doesn't mean that the client isn't obliged to pay for time and attention). 

Advocates of 100% condom use programmes claim that registration and mandatory testing empowers sex workers and improves their access to health care by compelling brothel owners to allow women to go for STI checks. 

These programmes do not prevent clients who want high risk services from purchasing them, they just shift and hide the demand and supply of unprotected services. 

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