Sex Workers, Sexual Minorities, and Gender Minorities Talk HIV and the Law

In the past few months, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law has held a number of regional dialogues between civil society, government officials, and policymakers. Dialogues in the Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa have addressed how punitive laws against sex workers and men who have sex with men increase the vulnerabilities of these groups to HIV infection and result in widespread human rights violations.

The Open Society Foundations' Sexual Health and Rights Project supported a consultant, Anna-Louise Crago, to work with members of the Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN) to prepare submissions to the Commission for the Eastern Europe and Central Asia dialogue in May 2011. The project also supported the individuals selected to participate in the dialogue in crafting a powerful statement on the multitude of issues facing sex workers in the region. The issues highlighted by SWAN members included the impact of criminalization, violence and impunity, police raids, and other forms of discrimination and repression within the justice system.

In Africa, another Open Society Foundations consultant, Tim Barnett, provided similar assistance to the African Sex Worker Alliance (ASWA) and other sex worker organizations based throughout Africa. Through the submission process, the Commission heard from sex workers in Eastern, Western and Southern Africa, and included the voices of female, male, and trans sex workers. The Open Society Foundations also provided a grant to African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) to promote the engagement of men who have sex with men in the regional dialogue process.