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SWAN Statement On The Occasion Of The World Aids Day

1 December 2006 -- 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. More

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 to 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 HIV pandemic to recede, we call 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 HIV pandemic without their involvement. The governments should include sex workers in development of comprehensive programs to address 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. 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