A Human Rights-based Commentary on UNAIDS Guidance Note: HIV and Sex Work (April 2007)

The April 2007 UNAIDS Guidance Note: HIV and Sex Work (“the Guidance Note”) is inconsistent with previous UN statements on the central importance of respecting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of sex workers in programs and policies related to sex work and HIV. The Guidance Note fails to consider seriously the precarious human rights situation of sex workers, and the way abusive and violent policing and ill-conceived national laws undermine sex workers’ rights. It also fails to discuss the human rights of sex workers as workers, including their right to work, their right to a livelihood of their choosing, and their right to workplace safety. It also results from a process in which sex workers were not meaningfully engaged.

This commentary outlines a number of concerns and makes concrete recommendations for improvements toward policy and program guidance that is truly based on human rights and evidence.