Commentary & Opinion
"Harm Prevention" Instead of "Harm Reduction" Needed to Fight AIDS, Sex Trade, Opinion Piece Says
December 17, 2003
AIDS prevention programs targeting women and children in the sex trade primarily focus on stopping HIV transmission, while usually ignoring the "operation and slavery of the sex trade as significant contributing factors" to the spread of the disease, Donna Hughes, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, writes in an Asian Wall Street Journal opinion piece. For example, the "100% Condom Use Program" used in Thailand brothels resulted in a "dramatic decrease" in the number of new HIV cases stemming from the country's sex trade, according to Hughes. However, that "success came at the price of allowing the continued abuse, exploitation and slavery of women and girls," Hughes says. Because the government and law enforcement officials expressed explicit support for the program, brothel owners were "implicitly told that their illegal activities would be overlooked ... as long as they supported the 100% CUP," effectively "decriminaliz[ing] the sex industry," Hughes says. Throughout the world, such "harm reduction" programs have become "more than an approach to combating AIDS"; they have come to "normalize and decriminalize the sex trade," Hughes writes. International aid programs and governments must therefore replace such "harm reduction" programs with "harm prevention" or "harm removal" programs in which traffickers and pimps are arrested and victims of the sex trade are offered assistance and shelter, Hughes says. "Where both [the sex trade and AIDS] exist, they must be combated, without one being left behind" -- an approach that is "going to require new thinking and new players not afraid to challenge ideological rigidity," she concludes (Hughes, Asian Wall Street Journal, 12/17).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.