Sex Workers Hold AIDS 2012 'Hub' Conference In Kolkata, India

“Hundreds of sex workers from around the world who said they were denied visas to attend an international AIDS conference in the United States began their own meeting in Kolkata on Saturday in protest,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Some 550 representatives of sex workers from India and 41 other countries were attending the seven-day event in the eastern Indian city, organizers said,” the news agency writes (Sil, 7/21). The International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) “return[ed] to American soil for the first time in more than 20 years, in recognition of President Barack Obama’s 2009 decision to lift the U.S. travel ban on people living with HIV,” the Guardian states, noting that “U.S. legislation still prohibits sex workers and drug users from entering the country.”

“The Kolkata conference, organized under the banner ‘save us from saviours,’ is expected to be the largest global gathering of sex workers ever,” and it “has been made an official IAC ‘hub,'” according to the newspaper (Provost, 7/20). Ten groups that advocate on behalf of sex workers on Saturday before the opening of AIDS 2012 released a declaration calling on the Obama administration to eliminate PEPFAR’s Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath that international organizations must sign in order to receive any U.S. government funding “because it discourages sex workers from taking advantage of the programs,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Wayne, 7/22).