The Alternate International AIDS Conference is being held from 21-27 July.
An odd motley crowd – sex workers, drug dealers, transvestites along with doctors and social workers – has gathered in Kolkata. They are here to observe and participate in the International AIDS Conference (IAC) or as they are calling it the Alternate International AIDS conference. Undeterred by the USA’s refusal to allow entry to international sex workers, the organisers have decided to hold the first-ever Global Hub of the International AIDS Conference at the Swabhumi here, to be attended by 550 representatives of sex workers from across the globe. The group in Kolkata will participate in the festival, being held in Washington through video-conferencing.
Aiming to provide a pathway for ensuring basic freedoms for sex workers, a week-long festival started on Sunday in Kolkata with 500 participants from 41 countries. The Sex Workers Freedom Festival was organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee along with the the Global Network of Sex Work Project (GNSWP) and International AIDS Society and other international agencies.
The festival will revolve around the central theme of bestowing on sex workers “seven freedoms”.
The seven freedoms for sex workers are -
- Freedom of movement and to migrate
- Access to quality health services
- Freedom to work and choose occupation
- Associate and unionise
- To be protected by the law
- Freedom from abuse and violence
- Freedom from stigma and discrimination
The International AIDS Conference (IAC) is a bi-annual congregation of global organisations and agencies engaged in controlling AIDS. This year, the conference is being held July 22-27. Held for the past 25 years in the US, the IAC has been an effective three-way dialogue between planners, the people living with HIV and the communities most at risk, such as sex workers.
“The drug dealers, the transgender etc. are the core of the response. To prevent HIV-AIDS, we have to work with them hand in hand. We will send a clear message not only to the Washington but to the entire world that without sex workers the response is not adequate,” said J.V.R. Prasada Rao, UN secretary general’s Special Envoy for AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region. ”The police harassment and the violence against the sexworkers must stop. This should be worked out with all the state governments in the country,” Rao told IANS.