The seventh International Congress on Aids in Asia and the Pacific was held in July 2005 and had the theme “Bridging Science and Community.”
While there was been much to be positive about at the five-day event, a number of participants felt there was a “black cloud” that hung over the conference in the form of the USA’s recently introduced Anti-prostitution pledge.
Andrew Hunter from APSNW raised this issue in an address to participants during the closing ceremony of the congress:
“The theme of this conference was to be bridging science and community. But it seems that many at this conference have been ignoring the scientific evidence about what works in HIV prevention and care for sex workers. And unfortunately, large parts of the community are complicit in ignoring it.
The US government policy that requires organizations working in HIV prevention to sign a pledge opposing sex work is rolling back fifteen years of building capacity and knowledge in programming and research.”
Andrew also questioned: the absence of abstracts about rights-based approaches to sex work; why issues relating to sex work were missing from the conference newsletter; the lack of scholarships for sex workers; NGOs forcing their staff to withdraw papers on sex work; and the silence which has met all these questions. He went on to say:
“Here is an opportunity to put on record that this conference opposes US government policies on sex work.”
The audience met this statement with cheers.