Sex Workers Group Wins HIV and Rights Award: Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers Honored at AIDS Conference

Mexico City, August 6, 2008

– The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
(APNSW) is the recipient of the 2008 international Award for Action on
HIV/AIDS and Human Rights, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Human
Rights Watch announced today. The award, which recognizes outstanding
individuals and organizations that protect the rights and dignity of
people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, was presented in Mexico City
on August 6, 2008, at the XVII International AIDS Conference.

“Sex workers routinely face human rights abuses, including the
discriminatory denial of health services, arbitrary detention by police,
harassment, and sexual and physical violence,” said Richard Elliott,
executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
(www.aidslaw.ca <http://www.aidslaw.ca/&gt; ). “This award recognizes the
extraordinary contribution of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers in
the struggle for sex workers’ rights.”

Since 1994, APNSW has represented sex workers in various policy and
educational forums, promoting the participation of sex workers in
HIV/AIDS programs and supporting dialogue between nongovernmental
organizations, governments, and activists. The group has challenged the
increasing criminalization of all forms of sex work and unethical drug
trials with sex workers as subjects.

APNSW has shaped policy at the global and regional levels, and built the
capacity of local grassroots sex worker organizations, including by
creating a network of transgender activists. Throughout Asia, the
network has been challenging gender-based violence, promoting access to
health care for sex workers, and advocating for the decriminalization of
sex work.

“I am honored to accept this award on behalf of the Asia Pacific Network
for Sex Workers,” said Andrew Hunter, the network’s policy director.
“International recognition of sex workers’ human rights is vital to curb
the HIV pandemic. Governments and UN agencies need to promote
sustainable, comprehensive HIV prevention and care initiatives for sex
workers that are community-led and protect their human rights.”

The stigmatization, social exclusion, and legal marginalization of sex
workers contribute to human rights violations, and can exacerbate their
risk of HIV infection. Increasingly, according to APNSW,
anti-trafficking efforts and laws criminalizing transactional sex have
resulted in violence and human rights abuses against sex workers at the
hands of police. The organization pointed to new anti-trafficking
legislation in Cambodia, where sex workers have been sent to
“rehabilitation” centers and subjected to sexual violence and beatings,
and had little access to health care or food.

“Being a part of APNSW – working in solidarity with tens of thousands of
sex workers in the region – has allowed us to challenge the way the
authorities have applied this law in Cambodia, and to gain strength to
bring this issue to international attention,” said Kao Tha of the
Women’s Network for Unity, a sex worker rights organization in Cambodia.

“The International AIDS Conference presents a forum to focus worldwide
attention on the epidemic and our global response,” said Joe Amon,
director of the HIV/AIDS program at Human Rights Watch
(www.hrw.org/hivaids). “Unfortunately, too often that response has been
tainted by prejudice and misinformation. Only by ensuring the health and
human rights of sex workers will governments, UN agencies, donors and
nongovernmental groups be effective at reducing the vulnerability of sex
workers to HIV infection. The Asia Pacific Network’s work epitomizes this.”

The Awards for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights were established in
2002 by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Human Rights Watch.
An award is presented annually to one Canadian and one international
recipient.
This year’s Canadian recipient was Peter Collins, a prisoner and health
activist in Ontario, Canada.

To learn more about the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, please visit:

* APNSW website: http://apnsw.org/apnsw.htm
* APNSW video on HIV/AIDS and sex workers’ human rights:
http://sexworkerspresent.blip.tv/#9772333

To see past recipients of the Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human
Rights, please visit:

* Human Rights Watch website:
http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/hivaids/Awards_for_Action/past_recipients.htm
* Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network website: http://www.aidslaw.ca/awards

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