Networking in Vancouver
Report on the XI International Conference on AIDS July 7-12, 1996.

NSWP Meetings:
Welcoming Party

NSWP members first gathered on the Sunday evening beginning the AIDS conference at Cheryl's and Paulo's hotel room to pull togther those who had been able to make it and mingle wth members of the Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver (SWAV) Ken, Will, Simone De Boudoir, and Julian. Having an international AIDS conference was a great experience for local people involved with SWAV to see the conference and hear some of the global issues concerning AIDS and sex work. The small room was full with members and aquaintances.

Structuring the NSWP

In an in promptu NSWP meeting at the booth, which included Jan Visser of TAMPEP, Cheryl Overs, Pia Covre, Andrew Sorfleet, Beth Wolgemuth, Priscilla Alexander. We discussed the structure of the NSWP. Concern over the lack of structure as a means to ensure accountability of the network was raised. Cheryl was pointed out that there was little to be accountable for, since the NSWP has no budget; it was unnecessary to evolve from the NSWP's current organic structure. Andrew pointed out that there are two reasons to have a formal structure: to formulate official policy statements, and to incorporate to receive public funding. Andrew also said that he saw the network more as a information service, people gather and contribute information to it and the NSWP makes the information available. Two projects that build in this direction is the publication of Making Sex Work Safe, and a website. It is not necessary to formulate a formal structure at this time.

At this discussion about accountability, people also voiced concerns raised to them by other NSWP members about International Congress on Prostitution, in March, 1997, (sponsored by COYOTE Los Angeles and The Center for Sex Research, California State University) and the NSWP sponsorship of a pre-conference for sex workers. Early drafts of proposed agendas were full of problems from an international persepective and some sex workers from developing countries expressed strong dismay about not being consulted particularly since the conference is claiming crediblity as an international conference while doing nothing to assist sex workers from developing countries to get to LA.

The USA prohibits sex workers from entering and it could be very dangerous for sex workers to do so. We agreed some strategies which include arranging the agenda for the pre-conference in situ and seeking an immigration waiver and for a letter to be sent to the conference pointing out the problems. Concerns were expressed that the conference, which will be predominantly American, will undertake tasks for which a global mandate is required such as revising the Charter for the Rights of Prostitutes or recreating the International Committee on the Prostitutes' Rights (which had existed previously and had American directors) Cheryl said that the NSWP has taken on activities like this in the abscence of an ICPR and that we do need a new ICPR (she agreed that it should be properly constituted in respect of sex worker and southern participation -- no, not Georgia, south of the equator!).

Even more astonishingly a colleague of "our representative" arrived at our booth to question the accountability of the NSWP! We (about six sex workers who were there at the time) pointed out that we are not accountable to non-sex workers and that the work of maintaining a large database of sex-work projects worldwide, facilitating international meetings and advocacy and providing information to new projects in developing countries is all voluntary so we are not accountable to donors either. (We operate funded projects in partnerships with local organizations.) We invited him to help us aquire funds for which we would be accountable but apparently he hasn't taken up the invitation!

As it happens many of us in the NSWP want to incorporate so we can receive money and have a reliable internal accountablility. We are working on that.

Making Sex Work Safe

Tuesday evening NSWP got together to discussMaking Sex Work Safe: A practical Guide for programme managers, fieldworkers and policy makers Cheryl gave some background on where the project orginated from and how the NSWP obtained the rights from the World Health Organization (WHO) to publish a refined manual from the seventh draft produced by Priscilla in April 1993. The rights to publish the document became available when the Global Programme on AIDS was disolved and restructured. Priscilla described the process of creating the document during her position at WHO. (Cheryl can you flesh this out a bit?)

This handbook will include technical information about designing, implementing and evaluating programmes as well as stories, pictures and anecdotes from sex worker projects worldwide. Despite the amount of research papers published about sex workers there is a clear dearth of information about the innovative work being done locally in sex workers health. An excellent example of one such material was passed around: The Workers Handbook, produced by the Sex Worker Outreach Project in New South Wales full of full colour pictures of STDs and advice from sexual health to taxes.

The meeting was attended by about a dozen NSWP members including Cheryl Overs, Andrew Sorfleet, Paulo Longo, Beth Wolgemuth, Dr. Jana, Priscilla Alexander, Liz Highleyman,

The Making Sex Work Safe blurb is that the Global Programme on Aids developed what where to be guidelines for people mananging and working in sex work projects. Unfortunatly there were a number of problems as well as the inherently controversial nature of the topic; the task was not very clear, there was very little will for sex worker participation and there were successive changes of personel and idiological regimes at GPA which resulted in the work being mauled over by a series of people ( none sex workers) in various different committees.

What resulted was a draft document which although it lacked coherence because of the process contained valuable information. The document was never published or officially distributes and evaluated. It was used in Europe, Nepal, Indonesia and India by individual consultants whose reactions were very positive. They and other NSWP members were keen to see a version of the book developed which was more "user friendly" and succint. Cheryl Overs, the NSWP co-ordinator and regional NSWP representatives Paulo Longo and Ruth Morgan Thomas asked various GPA staff about the fate of the publication over a period of almost two years. An enormous amount of money ( hundreds of thousands of dollars) had gone into developing the draft which now lay on the shelf - a lot of money ending up in the pockets of non sex workers and no observable benefit to sex workers - a familiar pattern ?

In the last weeks of the Global Programme on AIDS the NSWP was offerred the rights to the book and a small grant towards adapting and publishing it. We raised another $25.000 (and still need $20,000) and began the work of adpating it.We distributed the draft and the comments which came back identified some information needs of projects and gave us hints about how to develop the book. (which has, of coures changed since 1989 when it began) It revealed that people wanted stories and examples of actual work, material about male sex work which was missing in the draft, a more integrated approach to the third parties involved in sex work - and all written in very plain English

Cheryl is writing and editing and Paulo is co-editing the book. A development agency Appropriate Health Technologies and Resources Action Group (AHRTAG) is the project partner ( meaning they provide the financial management and use of their infrastructure) The book is being reviewed by 10 reviewers throughout the world and drafts are available to NSWP members and associates who would like to make comments on it before it is published. The book is a collaberation between sex workers and others but most of the work is being done by sex workers including aspects usually regarded as the preserve of the experts such as material on developing systems for analysing data for evaluation.

Making Sex Work Safe contains information about developing programmes to promote the health and well being of sex wokers including situation assesment, developing objectives, monitoring and evaluation, ethical issues and ways of understanding the policy framework of commercial sex. It provides examples of strategies which have been used in various parts of the world with illustrations, anecdotes and quotes from the field. The strategies are divided into two categories - educative and enabling. The basic assumption of the manual is that convincing sex workers to provide safe services is only the first step in an appropriate response to the challege of promoting health in the sex industry, and much of that has been achieved over ten years into the HIV pandemic. The rest of the response must be to improve the environments in which commercial sex takes place so that the factors which determine whether safe sex will be practised in reality are favourable.

We hope that Making Sex Work Safe will be an enjoyable read as well as a thought provoking examination of the issues from the persepective of those in the field. It will be available in the ( northern ) spring. You can order it...

The NSWP is adapting material which was developed at the Global Program on AIDS,WHO, to be published later this year. Follow this link to place anorder.

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Created: July 16, 1996
Last modified: December 10, 1996

NSWP Network of Sex Work Projects
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London EC1M 3JB, UK
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