AIDS 2014 Conference: Sex Workers' Voices


This week a small but feisty contingent of sex worker rights activists from the United States travel to Melbourne, Australia for the International AIDS Conference (AIDS2014). They will be joining sex workers converging at the conference at the Sex Worker Networking Zone in the Global Village and numerous other events to ensure that sex workers voices are heard. Jules Kim, the manager of Scarlet Alliance’s Migration Project who has been central in coordinating actions in Australia, has described the zone as a, “vibrant hub for everything by and for sex workers at the conference… if you are coming to the conference look for the red umbrellas- the symbol of our fight against stigma and discrimination and towards sex worker rights.” A schedule of events is available onlineBest Practices Policy Project and A Kiss for Gabrielawill be covering events on Twitter.

To the best of our knowledge, no sex worker representative from the United States received a complete scholarship to attend. A number of the key presenters from the United States addressing the concerns of women of color, sex worker health initiatives and youth were not given space to present at all. In order to address the shortfall, US sex workers have come together to fundraise and have pooled resources. The team has also worked with the local host committee to have space at the Sex Worker Networking Zone for presentations that were not accepted, organizing that the presenters will show videos of their work and be available online to respond to the audience. One of the United States most eloquent representatives on the issue of sex work and HIV/AIDS, Sharmus Outlaw a co-coordinator of the Desiree Alliance, who was unable to travel to the conference will be posting her comments online and via video presentations.

Some key events showcasing US Sex Worker rights organizing include the Not Your Rescue Project Sex Worker Mini Film Fest (July 21, 12.40 pm to 2.10, Global Village Film Screening, Clarendon Room C), the Sex Workers Rights and HIV Global Village Scavenger Hunt(Wednesday 23 July from 12noon – 2:30 in the Global Village); Pretty Woman REdux: REmixing, REviving and REclaiming Mainstream Perceptions of Sex Work! (Live Performance in the Community Dialogue Space, Tuesday 22 July 2014, 1:30pm – 2:15pm); “In My Skin” (short documentary), Thursday 24 July 2014, 4:45pm – 5:05pm (Level 2, Clarendon Room 2). The Best Practices Policy Project, Desiree Alliance and SWOP-USA  together will be hosting a booth in the Global Village, US Sex Workers United! (booth number 608, quite far from the Sex Worker Networking Zone… but see if you can find the team there or in the zone).

Our colleagues in Brazil at Davida and A Kiss for Gabriela were not granted an official spot to screen “A Kiss For Gabriela” and to host a “minute of noise” to honor Gabriela Leite (a sex worker rights leader who died in 2013). BUT, the film will now be shown in the sex worker networking zone, followed by discussion and twitter presence, Friday 25th July, 10-11am. Tweet #akissforGabi and #umbeijoparaGabi on the day of the screening to add to the online “noise” honoring all of her works and how they have inspired real change. Similarly WHORE LOGIC with Incredible, Edible, Akynos will screen Wednesday 23rd of July, 12.30-1pm. In order to ensure that sex workers unable to attend AIDS2014 can see Akynos video-taped performance, filmmaker PJ Starr will stream the video for the day.

Most conference events and activities will be held at the International AIDS Conference at theMelbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, 1 Convention Center place, South Wharf, Melbourne, VIC.