European Sex Worker Organisations Mark World AIDS Day 2017

Europe Regional Correspondent

Every year on 1st of December the world marks World AIDS Day. Globally sex workers are disproportionately affected by HIV, with UNAIDS estimating prevalence among sex workers as twelve times greater than the general population. This year, SWAN (Sex Workers' Rights Advocacy Network) together with ICRSE (International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe) issued a joint statement for World AIDS Day, and SWAN members marked the day with various different events.

Red Umbrella Athens focused on the crimes committed by the Greek government in 2012, to let them know this has not been forgotten. Beginning in April 2012, Greek police arrested and conducted forced STD-testing of sex workers, raiding places frequented by sex workers who use drugs.More than 20 sex workers who were found to be HIV positive were put into prison, and many sex workers were detained for months without trial. The police and media also published many sex workers’ photographs, HIV status and personal information. At the time the behaviour was strongly condemned by international human rights organisations, as well as Red Umbrella Fund and NSWP.

This World AIDS Day, Red Umbrella Athens published an article on the important work the organisation does for HIV prevention work among sex workers. "World AIDS Day is an opportunity for sex workers to demand equality, dignity and respect as well as equal access to HIV prevention, treatment and treatment services "- said Maria Xanthaki from RUA.

SZEXE from Hungary attended a public event organized by Civil AIDS Forum, and offered free HIV testing and counselling.

Ameliya from Kazakhstan has released a video encouraging sex workers in the Middle and Central Asia to united and work together on the region’s HIV response. “There has been enough violence. Know your rights!”- says a sex worker in the video.

STAR-STAR and HOPS, Macedonia, organised a charity event to support people living with HIV in the country. The funds collected during the World AIDS Day event will contribute to maintain the regular services of the Association Zaedno Posilni, supporting people with HIV with travel expenses for regular therapy and regular health checking (in Skopje), modest monthly support in basic food and hygiene products, as well as urgent health needs. STAR-STAR have also issued a statement, and HOPS shared the information on the most recent statistics around HIV epidemic in Macedonia and the additional risk of exposure to HIV faced by people who use drugs.

Juventas from Montenegro together with the state representatives shared the video explaining the importance of support from the Global Fund, and the importance of the cooperation between the state and NGOs. "However, since 2015, when the Global Fund ceased to fund the work of NGOs providing prevention services to people at increased risk of HIV, there has been a sharp jump in the number of newly-infected cases. We had an alarming situation in 2015, especially last year, "said Ivana Vujovic from Juventas. "This year, the Ministry of Health has allocated 100,000 euros and made a plan in cooperation with the Global Fund that the work of NGOs will be supported in a fair way for the next three and a half years. Now responsibility for preventive services is shared between state and non-governmental organisations”.

ARAS, Romania, have issued a press release, highlighting the main problems and obstacles in the fight against HIV. “The solution is simple and, with the goodwill of governments, can be implemented: prevention-screening-treatment. States that have understood this are about to succeed: they are strong where governments allocate resources (people and money) to enable universal access to information, screening and treatment. We believe that if there is political will (here we talk about health policies), there is a chance to live!”

Carusel, Romania, prepared kits with condoms and small cards with red ribbons. Those kits were available free of charge at 4 bars in Bucharest. The cards contained the info about red ribbon and World AIDS Day. They also organised a community dinner for clients of Carusel programs living with HIV..

New Life from Yekaterinburg, Russia, participated in a series of World AIDS Day events. The leader of New Life, Vera Kovalenko, attended the TV programme where she was talking about sero-discordant couples. Vera also took part at the press-conference in Yekaterinburg about the evaluation of treatment and prevention of HIV by activists.

Steps Fund from Moscow, Russia, together with the team from M.A.C Cosmetics held an event at ashopping centre. Steps initiated a flashmob #МифыВИЧ (#MythsHIV) on Facebook. Steps staff also went to a nightclub and to the to the office of Johnson&Johnson to provide free HIV testing and counselling. 

Silver Rose from St Petersburg, Russia, explained their work and the situation with HIV in Russia for a Canadian TV channel.

The Association Prevent from Serbia took part at the conference "National Conference on Innovative Services in the Community for People Living with HIV and AIDS" in Belgrade.

In Kiev and Odessa, Ukraine, Legalife Ukraine representatives joined World AIDS Day events and met with journalists and members of the public, explaining how to live with HIV and the importance of testing.  

On 1st of December 2017, HPLGBT from Ukraine, together with other NGOs, announced the start of the new project, “Safety First”, aimed at meeting the public health needs and supporting human rights among male and transgender sex workers.