Human rights violations against sex workers: burden and effect on HIV

This is part of a series of articles on HIV and sex workers published by The Lancet and freely available.

In this article Michelle Decker et al  reviewed evidence from more than 800 studies and reported on the burden and HIV implications of human rights violations against sex workers.

Abuses of human rights are  perpetrated by both state and non-state actors. Such violations directly and indirectly increase HIV susceptibility, and undermine effective HIV-prevention and intervention efforts.

Violations include homicide; physical and sexual violence, from law enforcement, clients, and intimate partners; unlawful arrest and detention; discrimination in accessing health services; and forced HIV testing.

Abuses occur across all policy regimes, although most profoundly where sex work is criminalised through punitive law.

The authors conclude that protection of sex workers is essential to respect, protect, and meet their human rights, and to improve their health and wellbeing.

Research findings affirm the value of rights-based HIV responses for sex workers, and underscore the obligation of states to uphold the rights of this marginalised population.

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