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New Guidelines to Better Prevent HIV in Sex Workers

December 17, 2012

The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UNAIDS, and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects have developed a set of technical recommendations for effective programs to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS and other STDs among sex workers. The complete report, "Prevention and Treatment of HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections for Sex Workers in Low- and Middle-income Countries," was published by the WHO Department of HIV/AIDS in December 2012. The guidelines advise that nations should decriminalize sex work and increase the access of sex workers to health services. Regular, voluntary screening and treatment for sex workers and empowerment regarding condom negotiation were other key elements of the guidelines.

Factors that increase the risk of HIV and other STDs for sex workers include a larger number of sexual partners and social marginalization. Because their work is against the law, sex workers face barriers to condom negotiation. Violence and alcohol and drug use may also contribute to higher risk for sex workers.

The guidelines provide direction for national public health officials, health workers, HIV/AIDS program managers, and community organizations that serve sex workers. Brazil, India, Kenya, and Thailand have successfully implemented similar steps to improve the health of sex workers and control the epidemic of HIV and STDs among the wider population.

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