By 1987, the Australian government recognised the potential for an HIV epidemic and had introduced a national HIV/AIDS strategy which included the funding of peer-led community organisations. The government were informed by peer advocates, public health experts, doctors, academics, and others, and recognised that the best people to address issues around HIV/AIDS were the communities most affected by the virus.
In recognition of the need to develop links between communities sharing intersectional issues and lifestyle choices, in 1998, a consortium of emerging peer-led sex worker organisations from across Australia and the region successfully lobbied the Federal Government to fund a national conference. The conference, primarily organised by Julie Bates, emerged under the moniker, the Sex Industry and AIDS Debate 1988.
The conference, supported by the Prostitute’s Collective of Victoria, was held in the historical street-based sex working inner-city suburb of St. Kilda, Melbourne, 25 to 27 October, 1988.
Delegates from Australia’s sex worker organisations, the Australian Prostitutes Collective, New South Wales; the Prostitutes Collective of South Australia, and the Prostitute’s Collective of Victoria, attended the event, as did sex worker delegates from New Zealand, Thailand and rural Australia. HIV advocates, health care workers, social researchers, Ministerial assistants and other allies also attended. A key outcome of the meeting included a clear mandate to create a national sex worker advocacy association – Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers’ Association.
(Background/archival material (pdf, 11 pages): “Sex workers as safe sex advocates: sex workers protect both themselves and the wider community from HIV“, by Julie Bates and Rigmor Berg.)