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Government Officials, U.N. Staff Meet With Sex Workers In Asia To Examine Access To HIV Services

In parts of Asia, “policies outlawing sex work are undermining HIV/AIDS prevention efforts by fragmenting and stigmatizing the sex workers and turning condom possession into an act that could lead to jail time, NGO officials say,” IRIN reports (10/15).

“In a first for the region, government officials from eight countries and staff from United Nations agencies this week joined sex workers in Pattaya near Bangkok to hear first-hand experiences and look at ways to review policies and laws that keep sex workers from accessing HIV services,” according to Reuters AlertNet.  

Sex work is one of the “main drivers” of HIV infection in the region – nearly 20 percent of sex workers in some countries are HIV positive, the news service reports. Steve Krauss, regional director of UNAIDS, said “[h]ardly any country is devoting significant resources to programmes with sex work, for men who have sex with men and drug users,” all groups at high risk of contracting HIV.

“UNAIDS say programmes targeting sex workers and their clients account for between 0.1 and 10 percent of money spent on AIDS between 2007 and 2009 in six countries (Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Thailand),” Reuters AlertNet adds (Win, 10/15).

IRIN examines the criminalization of condom possession and closure of brothels in Cambodia because of a law, which “drove thousands of sex workers into underground karaoke bars, massage parlours and parks” and made them more vulnerable to “police corruption and HIV infection.” The article also quotes Andrew Hunt, founder of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, and Kay Thi Win, program manager of Myanmar’s Targeted Outreach Programme (10/15).