Tais Plus, Kyrgyzstan
Weak participation of communities is one of the main problems in curbing the HIV/AIDS epidemics in Central Asia. Nongovernmental organization Tais Plus was established in 1997 to address that problem. It was founded upon an initiative and financial support from sex workers.
The NGO is doing a lot to raise the awareness of the Kyrgyz population through various seminars, training, and fieldwork - which consists not only of distribution of the information materials and condoms, but of provision of education sessions as well. PR activity with national and international mass media played a significant role in their work, so they could develop unique materials on protection of human rights of persons with HIV/AIDS.
The main objective of Tais Plus is to develop a community organization capable to advocate for the interests of sex workers and for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.
After a preliminary evaluation of the situation in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, a group of sex workers put forward in 1997 a goal to establish a “trade union”. In 1998 they began working on HIV/AIDS prevention, and in 2000, an NGO was officially registered and received a status of public organization. Today the organization has 23 employees, only 4 of which do not have experience in sex work or are not family members or clients of sex workers. The Board of the organization consists exclusively of sex workers.
Participation of sex workers in managing the organization ensured protection of their interests being an organizational priority. It was crucial in many delicate situations, such as HIV testing in remote Kyrgyz regions. The decision to have maximum possible financial independence allowed the organization to survive in the times of unstable funding. A unique system has been developed, motivating the employees to work on voluntary basis.
It is estimated that about 90% of street sex workers in Kyrgyzstan have been reached out by the organization during the period of 6 years of its existence. Declared level of condom use has risen to more than 90%. As a result, only 9 HIV+ cases have been registered among 2500 sex workers since the very beginning of the HIV epidemics in Kyrgyzstan.
The advocacy campaign, launched by Tais Plus in the beginning of 2006, was recently successfully completed by decriminalization of sex work, in spite of the opposition from the parts of the Government and reactionary clergy. This achievement is a result of Tais Plus working directly with selected Members of Parliament and parliamentary commissions.
Says Gulinara Kurmanova: “Tais Plus is an umbrella organization and a national methodological resource center in the sphere of bringing sex workers into the HIV/AIDS prevention programs.Our experience demonstrated the potential of the community initiative even in the conditions as hard as they are in Kyrgyzstan.We would like to offer our methodology and know-how to other communities and countries of the region.”