Category Archives: sex workers' rights

We Can End AIDS! Five marches converge for creative action at the White House, July 24, 2012

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by | July 25, 2012 · 8:42 pm

Who’s Missing from the Global AIDS Conference?

Every other year, AIDS activists everywhere travel far and wide to attend the International AIDS Conference, pushing for access to HIV prevention and treatment for all. The conference hasn’t been in the U.S. for eons, because back in the 80s, a widely reviled individual named Senator Jesse Helms made sure that anyone living with HIV could not enter the country. Two years ago, the HIV travel ban was lifted, and this year, the conference will be in the U.S — in Washington, DC from July 22 to 27.

But this country is still excluding countless people living with HIV.

When people from other countries apply to enter the U.S., even just to attend a conference, they must answer these 2 questions:

  1. Are you or have you ever been a drug abuser or drug addict?
  2. Are you coming to the United States to engage in prostitution or unlawful commercialized vice or have you been engaged in prostitution or procuring prostitutes within the past 10 years?

If you know how it is that we humans get HIV, you know that drug use and sex work are among the ways. Why talk about fighting a disease without the people who are dealing with it? This policy cuts out a massive number of people around the world who are living with HIV or at risk for HIV, including those working in the field and organizing for an end to this disease, from going to the International AIDS Conference. In response, drug users and sex workers and their allies around the world have set up hivhumanrightsnow.org to educate the world one blog entry at a time. Drug users and people living with HIV in Eastern Europe will have their own conference in Kiev to strategize the fight against AIDS. Sex workers and their allies will meet in Kolkata.

Tune in to @HIVhumanRIGHTS for tweets from sex workers, drug users and their allies about what the world needs to do to fight AIDS, and keep checking the blog at hivhumanrightsnow.org for inspiring updates.

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Filed under criminalization of HIV, Drug users' rights, Europe, harm reduction, immigration/migration, India, people with AIDS in leadership, Russia, sex workers' rights, stigma

Support a vital work-in-progress, and stop criminalization of people living with HIV!

Click here for more information about the documentary — and to make a donation and become part of bringing this desperately needed project to fruition.

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Filed under African Americans, arts and culture, criminalization of HIV, gay and bisexual men, police repression, prison, sex workers' rights, stigma

Prison Health News: Spring 2011 Issue Available for Download!

The spring issue of Prison Health News has been out for a few months — but it is such a good one, I hate to see it go!

You can download it as a pdf for reading by clicking here, or the printable version by clicking here. See the end of this post for helpful printing instructions.

This issue’s got

  • “Recovery from Injustice”: An Interview with Ronnie Stephens by Suzy Subways
  • Nutrition Behind the Walls: If You Are Stressed, Get Sick, or Have Diabetes by Teresa Sullivan, Laura McTighe, and Kimberly Rogers
  • NO JUSTICE!: When Sex Work Brands You as a “Sex Offender” in New Orleans by Deon Haywood and Laura McTighe
  • Surviving Solitary Confinement by Bro. Tee (Terrance E. White)
  • How HIV Meds Work, Part 1 by AIDS InfoNet

plus, addresses for Advocacy and Support Resources and Informational Resources!

Continue reading

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Filed under African Americans, economic justice, gay and bisexual men, gender, New Orleans, people with AIDS in leadership, prison, sex workers' rights, Southern United States, Uncategorized, women

US Social Forum workshops not to be missed!

So the US Social Forum starts tomorrow in Detroit!

I had a life-altering, mind-blowing experience at the first-ever USSF, in Atlanta in 2007, and wrote this open letter to the AIDS movement and the Left: https://aidsandsocialjustice.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/open-letter-to-the-left-and-the-aids-movement-two-ships-passing-on-our-winding-way-to-a-new-dawn/

This will be the second-ever USSF. I’ll be blogging about sessions I go to that are inspiring. But I probably won’t post anything here til after I get home, exhausted as my aching bones get at conferences, and me without a laptop.

Here are some sessions I’d recommend for AIDS activists and all social justice activists who are blessed to be going to Detroit!

– Suzy

WED, 10am-noon, Cobo Hall: O2-42
Join in the Whirlwind: A Cooperative Panel on Research and Movement Building
Team Colors Collective

WED, 1-5:30pm, Cobo Hall: D2-08
The Take Back the Land Movement: Realizing the Human Right to Housing in the US
Take Back the Land (Miami), Survivors Village (New Orleans), Chicago Anti-Eviction Coalition

WED, 1-5:30pm, Cobo Hall: W2-67
US Social Forum Queer People’s Movement Assembly
co-hosted by The Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex (TGI) Justice Project, which works on prison issues, along with other groups including Queers for Economic Justice, SONG: Southerners on New Ground, and more groundbreaking LGBT groups Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, African Americans, Alternatives to 501c3, arts and culture, California, disaster capitalism, displacement and gentrification, Drug users' rights, economic justice, gay and bisexual men, gender, Haiti, harm reduction, housing, immigration/migration, imperialism/colonialism, Latina/o communities in the United States, New Orleans, New York City, police repression, prison, revolutionary strategies, sex workers' rights, sexual violence, Southern United States, trans and gender non-conforming, transformative justice, treatment access, women

Solidarity Project 6 – Sex Workers Organizing

The Solidarity Project, published online by the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP) from November 2006 to November 2008, is available in pdf format on CHAMP’s website. Download Issue 6 – Sex Workers Organizing – here.

En Español: Septiembre de 2007 • Número 6 • Los Trabajadores Sexuales se Organizan haga clic aquí para Número 6

SEP. 2007 • Issue 6

In This Issue:

Liberated Style
Sex workers in Washington, DC, and Brazil develop creative strategies to fight stigma, violence, police repression, and HIV
By Darby Hickey……………………p.03

Kumjing’s Activist Passport:
Migrant sex workers in Thailand become HIV prevention leaders, despite U.S. groups’ attempts to “rescue” them
By Suzy Subways, with additional reporting by Darby Hickey……….p.06

Durbar Is Life, As Life Is Durbar
Policy Document on Positive Sex Workers………………………………..p.09

TAKE ACTION
What you can do……………………p.10

RESOURCES…………………………p.13

Top Ten Positive Changes for Agency Staff
Young Women’s Empowerment Project…………………………………p.15

Special thanks to Joanna Berton Martinez for her comments on a draft of this issue.

http://www.champnetwork.org/index.php?name=solid

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Workers in the sex industry fight discrimination, violence, and HIV

by Suzy Subways, Editor, Solidarity Project

SEP. 2007 • Issue 6

Many different types of jobs and trade can be defined as sex work. And many people around the world may call themselves sex workers, including people who work as escorts, prostitutes, erotic massage workers, exotic dancers, or hustlers; do phone sex, lingerie modeling, adult internet sites, or adult films; live with the support of a sugar-daddy or sugar-mama; or have sex for housing, food, clothing, drugs, or other things they need. In this issue of the Solidarity Project, we discuss ways that sex workers are building their power to protect themselves from violence, arrest, stigma, and HIV.

“Sex workers organizing as HIV prevention workers, especially in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, South Africa, and some Asian countries have, with funding for HIV prevention programs, fostered a thriving sex workers’ rights movement,” says Priscilla Alexander, longtime activist and researcher on sex work and HIV. “The best HIV prevention is designed by vulnerable communities themselves, so it’s essential that sex workers have a say. But the gag rule has damaged global organizing.” The gag rule is a policy requiring all organizations outside the United States to denounce prostitution in order to receive global HIV prevention money (see sidebar next page).

In this issue of the Solidarity Project, we spotlight activist groups, such as Davida in Brazil and EMPOWER in Thailand, that work creatively without U.S. funding. We also explore how arrest, deportation and police abuse, as well as the stigma and violence sex workers often experience from clients, in their workplace and in society, put them at risk for HIV – and how
organized resistance to these threats is an essential element of HIV prevention.

“The first reason for not using condoms is the fear of violence,” says Yaya Liem of Project SAFE, a street outreach program for sex workers run by volunteers in Philadelphia. “The rate and visibility of violence is sky-high.” Continue reading

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Liberated Style

Sex workers in Washington, DC, and Brazil develop creative strategies to fight stigma, violence, police repression, and HIV

By Darby Hickey

SEP. 2007 • Issue 6

The “DC Madam” is in the news again. Some sex workers on the streets of the nation’s capital may be glad that Deborah Jeane Palfrey (accused of running an illegal escort service for 13 years) has helped reveal the hypocrisy of moral crusader David Vitter, the Republican Senator from Louisiana, who has admitted to being a client of the service. At the end of April this year, Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias – the man responsible for implementing the policy that forces all organizations to denounce prostitution in order to receive U.S. global AIDS funds – also resigned after being linked to the alleged prostitution service. Although it may be a joy to watch Vitter and Tobias tumble, many DC sex workers want to know why Palfrey is getting so much media attention while most sex workers regularly face violence and police arrest.

Sex workers from around the world demonstrate at the XVI International HIV/AIDS Conference in Toronto, August 16, 2006.

You won’t hear about sex workers organizing for their rights in DC in the media frenzy surrounding Palfrey’s case – but they are organizing. Transgender women, African-American exotic dancers, online escorts, male street-based workers and sex workers from many different fields are coming together to push for change in the District and to support broader activism by people trading sex for money and other things they need for survival.

Washington, DC: Safety in the Streets

In 2005, community members and organizations such as Different Avenues, HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive), La Clinica del Pueblo, and HIV/AIDS groups, organized to form the Alliance for a Safe & Diverse DC to work against proposed repressive legislation targeting people in public spaces. Although the legislation passed, the organizing effort built community among those involved. People were determined to keep up the fight for the rights of some of the most marginalized communities in our city. One of the most alarming aspects of the law was to create “prostitution free zones” where police could arrest anyone in the jurisdiction they believed were there for the “purpose of prostitution” – even if they weren’t breaking any law. Basically, the legislation gave legal backing to long-standing practices of police profiling of certain individuals and communities. For example, these techniques pushed transgender sex workers out of a downtown stroll into a much more dangerous area located on the literal edge of the city where they are not only robbed, raped, shot at and more, but also have greater difficulty interacting with health outreach teams.

To help support our claims about the negative impact of the legislation, the Alliance for a Safe & Diverse DC started the Community Research Project. The Project is examining ways that DC’s prostitution policies affect communities, including trans people, the homeless, and women of color. Community based research in this case means research directed and conducted by members of the affected communities, rather than by academics. Our diverse research team will use anthropological and sociological techniques in gathering surveys, observing police activity, and conducting interviews to get as much information as possible. Very little research has been done on the impact of prostitution policies and issues in the United States, and little of that sparse research has been led by people who engage in commercial sex.

We wanted to do this research to show lawmakers that they should make decisions based on evidence-based research and careful thought rather than knee-jerk reactions. By continuing to pass new anti-prostitution laws without having more information, they are not making good policies and are even contradicting their own efforts – like HIV prevention. The District has among the highest HIV rates in the country, but increased criminalization and harassment by police of suspected sex workers drive the workers further underground, further from services like health outreach and HIV counseling and testing. Police harassment also decreases sex workers’ ability to negotiate condom use or even to carry prevention materials, since police sometimes seize the materials or use them as an excuse to arrest someone on prostitution-related charges. Continue reading

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Filed under Alternatives to 501c3, arts and culture, Brazil, displacement and gentrification, gender, imperialism/colonialism, police repression, sex workers' rights, sexual violence, Solidarity Project, stigma, trans and gender non-conforming, Uncategorized, Washington, DC, women

The Global Impact of the U.S. Anti-Prostitution Pledge

Ideology Continues to Trump HIV Prevention

SEP. 2007 • Issue 6

The gag rule. The loyalty oath. Where did it come from and what does it mean to people at risk for HIV?

In 2003, Congress passed the Global AIDS Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), which bar the use of federal funds to “promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution.” These laws require any organization applying for or receiving U.S. funding to combat global HIV/AIDS or human trafficking (forced labor) to sign a statement that it “does not promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution” – parroting the lawmakers’ words.

Organizations that distribute U.S. funding to sub-grantees must ensure that those groups also comply with the oath. Organizations that have to adopt the policy include foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) receiving U.S. HIV/AIDS funds and U.S.-based NGOs working abroad.

These funding restrictions are in line with similar – and ever-increasing – efforts to force organizations working in public health to comply with ideological litmus tests that often actually hurt public health practice – and betray human rights standards.

With this policy, the U.S. government has increased stigma and discrimination against sex workers in their home countries. In Thailand, for example, it has led to the breakdown of successful activist coalitions and joint HIV prevention efforts, as groups that were previously allies will no longer work with sex worker groups. Lost funding worldwide has led to serious condom shortages for sex workers. Veteran activists against forced labor within sex work are tarred as supporting human trafficking. And drop-in centers that provided many homeless sex workers with a place to bathe, nap, and find a sense of home and family have closed due to the loss of funds. Their families have been torn apart. People who were active in community HIV prevention can no longer find each other.

U.S. policies run contrary to best practices in public health and undermine efforts to stem the spread of HIV and forced labor.

Thanks to the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) and “Taking the Pledge”

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Kumjing’s Activist Passport: Migrant sex workers in Thailand become HIV prevention leaders, despite U.S. groups’ attempts to “rescue” them

By Suzy Subways, with additional reporting by Darby Hickey

SEP. 2007 • Issue 6

When the Thai sex worker activist group EMPOWER traveled to Toronto for the International AIDS Conference last year, one of its most vocal representatives was a puppet named Kumjing. EMPOWER works with many women who come to Thailand from Burma for health care, a way to support their families back home, and freedom from Burma’s military regime. They also come from Burma illegally – which means they cannot attend international meetings as other activists do.

EMPOWER’s Kumjing puppets represented migrant sex workers who could not speak on a panel for fear of deportation at the XV International HIV/AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand

“Think about a poor Burmese travel[ing] from one country to another,” says Noi, an EMPOWER activist. “How would she be treated at the immigration authority? When Kumjing was invited to the Toronto AIDS conference in 2006, we took her like a human being, like an art masterpiece made by migrants… The puppet of human life is telling her story from home, in the journey and in the meeting room – on the panel discussion.”

EMPOWER Foundation was started by sex workers and activist allies in 1985 and produced Thailand’s first HIV educational materials. Now EMPOWER runs its own bar, “Can Do,” collectively owned and run by sex workers, with best-practice occupational health and safety standards, a sex worker-designed security system, condom distribution, and workers who are trained as safe sex counselors.

Three thousand sex workers have studied at EMPOWER University, which offers primary and high school qualifications, computer skills, and safer sex counseling skills, as well as training in leadership, media, research and public speaking. English classes are designed by sex workers who want to learn the language in a way that meets their needs – and helps them protect themselves from HIV. For example, a sex worker who can say to a customer, “I like wine but I don’t like whiskey” and “do you have a condom?” will have a better chance to stay in control and away from unsafe situations. Continue reading

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