U.S. Travel Restrictions On Sex Workers Inhibit Effective HIV/AIDS Response

“[D]isappointingly, one group that will be absent [from the XIX International AIDS Conference next week] due to U.S. travel restrictions is sex workers,” a Lancet editorial states. “Sex workers have been extremely neglected as a population in the global response to HIV/AIDS, despite their substantially heightened risk of HIV infection and propensity to transmit new infections into general populations,” the editorial continues, adding, “Yet global funding allocations have been inadequate or restricted policies have been applied, such as the U.S. anti-prostitution pledge, which has greatly limited research and the response to HIV in sex workers. Furthermore, the conflation of sex work with human trafficking, and the disregard of sex work as work, has meant that sex workers’ rights have not been properly recognized.”

“Discriminatory laws and policies, stigma, violence, and social exclusion all impede efforts to reach sex workers and their clients with effective HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support programs,” the Lancet states, adding that “adults engaged in consensual sex work have the same rights as other individuals.” The editorial notes that “Kolkata, India, will host an alternative event aptly named the Sex Worker Freedom Festival, which, after much negotiation, will be digitally and video-linked to the IAC,” and concludes, “Restricting participation of sex workers in the U.S. meeting shamefully prohibits an effective response to the global HIV epidemic for sex workers, and all those at risk of infection” (7/21).