July 23, 2012
International sex workers who say they were denied visas to attend the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington launched their own meeting Saturday in Kolkata. Organizers said 550 sex worker representatives from India and 41 other nations were attending the seven-day event. Dubbed the "Freedom Festival," the conference will concentrate on the importance of "seven freedoms" -- the right to move, work, access health care, participate, organize, and be free of violence and discrimination -- all of which the workers say is vital to reducing their vulnerability to HIV. "With the U.S. now leading the fight for lesbian, gay, and transgender equality, we are extremely disappointed they refuse to revise their restrictions on sex workers and refuse to recognize we're human beings with basic rights," said Andrew Hunter, president of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects.