Science orders the evidence about sex work and HIV


We share an interesting article of Corresponsales Clave about recent scientific studies that reaffirm the importance of working on new public policies that aim to modify the structural factors that contribute to the sustained reduction of HIV.

The findings of recent studies on the prevalence of HIV and other STI’s in female sex workers are essential to the advocacy work of civil society organizations.

“Female sex workers in low- and middle-income countries are nearly 14 times more likely to be infected by HIV compared to the rest of country’s population. The findings suggest an urgent need to scale up to quality HIV prevention programs. The legal context should be considered and the policies affecting the context of sex work should be revised; actions to reduce stigma, discrimination and violence faced by female sex workers are needed”, says the study published recently by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the United States.

This study was published online in The Lancet Infectious Diseases and is based on a meta-analysis of 100 previous published studies representing almost 100,000 female sex workers in 50 countries. Analyzing the prevalence of HIV in these countries, the risk of infection for sex workers women is 14 times more that of other women.

«I am not surprised for some of the conclusions of the study; they reflect many of the things that the network and our organizations have been saying and demanding. I’d like to emphasize information from countries like Peru and Mexico, which we know are among those countries with the highest levels of gender violence against female sex workers and femicide murders. It is no accident”, said Elena Reynaga, Executive Secretary of the Latin America and Caribbean Network of Female Sex Workers (RedTraSex).

There were also published the findings of the study PREVEN in Peru, led by Professor Patricia García, who collected data for three years at 26 locations in the country. Among her findings, she provides scientific evidence that in the locations studied, given the existence of quality prevention programs with strong community involvement and good access to condoms, the chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) —including HIV— are considerably reduced.

These results support the findings of other recent studies on the need for comprehensive interventions, beyond the distribution of condoms. In Peru, in 2006 it was reported that 96% of female sex workers used a condom. Even if a female sex worker was infected with an STI, through the use of condom, her client would have been protected. As a corollary, the study shows that a reduction in the prevalence of STIs in young men in these cities of Peru was observed.

The table below shows a comparative analysis of the prevalence among female sex workers and the general population of women, the weight of that prevalence over the total of the HIV epidemic and, in the center, the chances of transmission. For example, in Mexico, with a prevalence of 6.2%, 2 in 10 people with HIV would be female sex workers, and have 35 times more likely to be infected than other women.

«Public health has been always more busy in getting blood from us to analyze how many viruses we have; and that’s why it is important to hear talking about the need to look after human and labor rights.

Here’s an interesting set of scientific evidence, now what? Where are the financial resources for comprehensive and participatory programs? When are we going to end the dangerous and sterile debate about whether sex work is work? This discussion generates violence instead of protecting our quality of life. To legislate in a progressive way with our participation must be taken seriously. Health ministries and cooperation agencies must understand and act differently. This goes beyond a health issue”, said Reynaga.

Although reports of these studies are complex and were published in English, are essential to the work of civil society in the region. Perhaps to the scientific community, these findings are surprising, but are not news for us, who work on these issues for years. There is something that has not changed: scientific evidences are excellent and powerful tools for advocacy.

Source: Corresponsales Clave (Javier Hourcade Bellocq)


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