Sex workers collective show long-term health gains of self-empowerment

A parallel AIDS conference in Kolkota, India gave the rights an update on the success of the VAMP sex-workers colective – now in its 15th year reports, reports Andera Cornwall the Guardian.

They have shown an impressive ability to minimise risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in sex workers.

Founded in 1997, Vamp now has more than 5,000 members. Weekly meetings bring the collective together to tackle a wide range of issues faced by members. Health work and advocacy for sex rights’ human rights are interwoven with Vamp’s everyday work in the densely populated alleyways in the red-light districts of Sangli and other towns in the region.

Vamp’s mission is to change society. Rather than treating sex workers as victims to be rescued or rehabilitated, it demonstrates the power of collective action as a force for women’s empowerment, mobilising sex workers to improve their working conditions, and claim rights and recognition. And they’re yielding results.

The report showed how self-empowerment and education can achieve high rates of safe sex in women at high risk of sexually transmitted infections and HIV. It is yet another reminder to that the most effective way to protect this vulnerable population is to help then self-organise and self-protect rather than to criminalise prostitution.

The latter, as many studies have shown, merely drives women into the hands of criminal gangs, or leads to risk-taking sexual practices and high rates of self-harm.

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