Remove all punitive sex work laws, says World Health Organisation policy brief

Remove all punitive sex work laws, says World Health Organisation policy brief

Thursday 1 December is World Aids Day, an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV. Guest blogger and ESWA Intern Hanna Nyman examines a publication from the World Health Organization (2022): Consolidated guidelines on HIV, viral hepatitis and STI prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations.

 

My name is Hanna Nyman and I am currently working at ESWA as an intern until January 2023 as a part of my studies. The focus of my internship is sex workers’ health as I come from a medical science and health background. While studying a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences in Scotland I became acutely aware of the fact that different populations do not benefit from advancements in the field of medical sciences on equal terms. Therefore, after graduation I decided to pursue studies focused on health equality and applied to the University of Gothenburg based in Sweden, where I am currently studying a master’s degree in public health. 

 

During my internship I have familiarised myself with key publications from various health actors relevant for advocacy on sex workers’ health and this presents an opportunity to summarise and share important knowledge about sex workers’ health in a more accessible form. For the next few weeks I will discuss important findings from key publications and raise awareness of the information that is already available on sex workers’ health. 

 

This week I will focus on a publication from the World Health Organization (2022): Consolidated guidelines on HIV, viral hepatitis and STI prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations. This publication presents the latest recommendations regarding HIV, viral hepatitis and STI services for sex workers and other key populations that are disproportionately affected by these health issues due to social, legal, structural and other contextual factors. The recommended essential interventions include enabling interventions and health interventions focused on HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs. Furthermore, WHO recommends other additional interventions that are essential for sex workers’ broader health. 

 

Out of the recommended package of interventions, WHO prioritises enabling interventions that address the various barriers preventing access to health services. They include the removal of all punitive laws, policies and practices regarding sex work, empowering sex work communities as well as reducing stigma and discrimination and addressing violence that sex workers face. Recommended essential health interventions cover HIV, viral hepatitis and STI prevention, including availability of PrEP, PEP, condoms and lubricant, as well as testing and treatment for HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs. Finally, recommended essential health interventions for broader health include reproductive and sexual health services, such as safe abortions and contraception, mental health services as well as screening and treatment for hazardous and harmful alcohol and other substance use.

 

What I personally find important regarding this publication is that the guidelines were developed with an emphasis on meaningful participation of key populations. As one of the guiding principles in the development of the guidelines was the principle of key population community-led response, sex workers were represented in the Guideline Development Group responsible for formulating new and updated WHO recommendations. Furthermore, external guideline contributors conducted qualitative research into sex workers’ and other key populations’ values and preferences. Hence, the recommended interventions were developed together with the community that they intend to serve, ensuring that they are in line with sex workers’ health needs and delivered in an appropriate and acceptable way.

 

References

World Health Organization. (2022). Consolidated guidelines on HIV, viral hepatitis and STI prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations.



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