Fighting AIDS can only be effective with involving sex workers.

According to UNAIDS 's Report 2006, Central and Eastern Europe is one of the most endangered regions on Earth where HIV is getting spread more and more quicker. The report also says that the 67% of the newly infected are IDUs sharing syringes and 12% of them are sex workers and their clients in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

HCLU emphasizes again the importance of prevention generally and also of informing marginalized groups as sex workers. To reach marginalized groups institutions and policy makers must respect their human rights. HCLU beleives that an effective policy can only be carried out with the involvment of them.

In the spring of 2006, HCLU initiated a network for the protection of sex workers's human rights named SWAN (Sex Workers Rights & Advocacy Network in Central & Eastern Europe and Central Asia). The members are local NGOs working with sex workers in the following countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Kazahstan, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Russia (St. Petersburg and Siberia), Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

SWAN statement on World AIDS Day

December 1 -- Alma Ata, Barnaul, Bishkek, Belgrade, Bratislava, Bucharest, Budapest, Kiev, Prague, Riga, Saint Petersburg, Skopje, Sofia, Tirana, Vilnius, Warsaw

Today is December 1, the World AIDS Day.

On this day, we, representatives of 16 NGOs from 15 countries, would like to warn the governments in our region that the world is facing an unprecedented human catastrophe. A quarter of a century into the pandemic, AIDS has inflicted immense suffering on countries and communities throughout the world:

• Every day 14,000 new HIV infections occur, and 8000 people die of AIDS
• So far more than 25 million people have died of AIDS
• 40 million are currently living with HIV
• 15 million children have been orphaned by AIDS
• Half of all new HIV infections are among young people under the age of 25

So called “marginalized groups” are more threatened by the HIV pandemic than the general population. Among them are sex workers.
In many countries in our region prostitution is illegal. Sex workers have no access to education about HIV infection and effective prevention. They have no access to HIV testing, free condoms, medical treatment or psychological counseling.

Their human rights are routinely violated. They are beaten, raped, blackmailed, kidnapped, sold and bought by human traffickers.
They are often beaten and raped by the police.
Condoms found on them are used as evidence against them. That violates basic human rights of sex workers and makes them more likely to get infected by HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

We would like to remind the government in our region of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on HIV/AIDS adopted in June this year, which states that “to mount a comprehensive response, we must overcome all legal, regulatory, trade and other barriers that block access to prevention, treatment, care and support.”

For the HIV pandemic to recede, we call on our governments to do the following:

• Decriminalize sex work where criminalization exists
• Make the most elementary means of prevention, male and female condoms, permanently available
• Ensure that sex workers have equitable access to comprehensive medical care, social services, free HIV testing and antiretroviral treatment
• End imprisonment, disenfranchisement, and human rights violations of sex workers
• Recognize that sex workers rights and reproductive and sexual rights are human rights. Human rights strategies should be at the core of HIV/AIDS responses
• Recognize that sex workers are not the problem but part of the solution. There is no solution to the HIV pandemic without their involvement. The governments should include sex workers in development of comprehensive programs to address the further spread of HIV
• Provide sex education to young people, as recommended by the WHO, which will provide them with the skills, knowledge and means to prevent HIV infection. Access to education on sexually transmitted infections and on prevention against them is a human right of young people

As a network of 16 service-providing civil society organizations from 15 countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, we have experience in developing policies and providing services for sex workers and HIV infected persons. We can provide the necessary assistance to the governments in development of comprehensive programs to fulfill the above recommendations.

Organizations, Members of SWAN – Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network:

Aksion Plus, Albania,

HESED, Bulgaria,

Bliss Without Risk, Czech Republic,

MPEE, Hungary,

Women's Rights Center, Kazakhstan,,,

Tais Plus, Kyrgyzstan,

Dia+Logos, Latvia,

I Can Live, Lithuania,

HOPS, Macedonia,

Tada, Poland,

ARAS-Romanian Association Against AIDS, Romania,

Humanitarian Action, Russia,

Siberian Initiative, Russia,

Jazas. Serbia,

Odyseus, Slovakia,

All Ukrainian Association on Harm Reduction, Ukraine,

For more information on SWAN please click on the SWAN banner on HCLU's website.

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