With the United States imposing travel restrictions on overseas sex workers from attending the International AIDS Conference in Washington from Sunday, a week-long meet is being held here to enable them to be part of the event through video-conferencing. 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 the scientists/planners, the people living with HIV, and the communities most at risk, such as sex workers. However, with the US travel restrictions, 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 and India. 

Pegged as the sex workers’ Freedom Festival, its central theme will be the “seven freedoms” that sex workers are entitled to – 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; and from stigma and discrimination.

“With the US now leading the fight for Lesbian, Gay and Transgender equality, we are extremely disappointed that they refuse to revise their restrictions on sex workers and refuse to recognise that we are human beings with basic rights,” said Andrew Hunter, president, Global Network of Sex Work Project (NSWP).

The conference in Kolkata will facilitate the sharing of experiences and evaluation, and dialogue over issues and priorities. It will also aim to generate new directions and dimensions needed for regional and global AIDS control programs.

Source: IANS