2010 – Asia Pacific Regional Consultation on HIV and Sex Work, Pattaya, Thailand

From 12-16 October 2010 the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW), UNAIDS, and UNFPA collaborated on a consultation on HIV/AIDS and sex work in Asia. Around 150 delegates from eight countries attended the meeting in Pattaya, Thailand.

Delegates included representatives from the UN, the Global Fund, NGOs, government officials, and sex worker groups and projects from Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand, Fiji, Papua, New Guinea, Cambodia, and China.

The consultation was ambitious and invited police, sex workers, government and UN officials to discuss approaches to HIV in Asia and the Pacific together. Some countries and participants were more successful at this than others, and sex workers who took part noted many issues that highlighted the power differentials  between participants.

room full of people sitting round tables, looking at big screen with projection of an APNSW video on it
Participants watch APNSW-produced video – Pattaya Consultation, 2010

Some of the issues raised at the consultation were:

  • The proportion of funding for effective HIV programming with male female and transgender sex workers, is not adequate or proportionate to the role of commercial sex in HIV epidemics in Asia and the Pacific.
  • Interventions that are initiated and sustained by sex worker communities are crucial.
  • Lack of access to HIV medications and support for positive sex workers remains inadequate in many places.
  • Discrimination and abuse of HIV positive sex workers must be addressed.
  • The criminal law is a major barrier to good HIV programming, but so too are other laws and conventions that commit governments to eliminating trafficking and sexual exploitation.
  • The conflation of trafficking and sex work and the redefinition of sex work as sexual exploitation or entertainment is eroding countries capacity to provide effective HIV services.
  • Violence is the most important issue overall and violence by police outweighs all other violence as a priority for sex workers throughout the region,
  • Mandatory and coerced HIV testing remains a problem throughout the region. It must be stopped.
  • Condom confiscation by police is a widespread problem.

Sex workers drafted a UN style declaration at the meeting called the Pattaya Draft Declaration that outlined what sex workers want.

speaker at left of picture holding microphone, in background is a banner saying Asia and Pacific Regional (Consultation) on HIV and
Khartini Slamah of APNSW moderates discussion on legal and policy barriers.