As thousands gather to discuss HIV and AIDS at the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., the voices of many of those most affected by the global epidemic have been excluded. That is because U.S. travel restrictions bar foreign sex workers and drug users from entering the United States, unless they can obtain a waiver. Sex workers and their allies have refused to be shut out of the global conversation on HIV/AIDS, staging a six-day alternative conference, the Sex Worker Freedom Festival, now underway in Kolkata, India. They have been video linking with the main conference in Washington, D.C., as well as holding their own conversations about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, along with sex workers' rights. We go to Kolkata to speak with Meena Seshu, general secretary of SANGRAM, a grassroots group working for the rights of sex workers and people with HIV/AIDS in India; and Annah Pickering, a former sex worker and a member of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective. "Sex workers are in the forefront of fighting this epidemic all over the world," Seshu says. "It is unfortunate that the U.S. government has kept us out of these deliberations and has not allowed us to enter the United States."
Published on Jul 25, 2012 by democracynow