AIDS United’s Public Policy Council Committee on Criminalization and HIV: End the criminalization of consensual commercial sexual exchange

A statement on International Whores/Sex Workers Day

Today, June 2, marks the 48th anniversary of the resistance movement marked by the occupation of a church in Lyon, France, by sex workers demanding their right to live free from the fear of oppression and criminalization by their own governments.

Almost 50 years later, we continue that call as the conditions for sex workers have not improved.

The advent of digital surveillance technologies has increased the scrutiny faced by sex workers and those who support and advocate for them. Federal laws like FOSTA/SESTA and the EARN IT Act that continue to increase the scope of surveilled, policed and criminalized activity rest on the foundation of the dozens of state and local laws that criminalize and stigmatize sex workers, driving them and their families further into the margins.

The intentional marginalization of sex workers makes them targets of violence and communicates a violent, false message: that sex workers are not part of our communities or deserving of basic rights, safety and dignity. Stigmatizing and criminalizing sex work creates barriers to the resources and services that people need to survive, including access to HIV care and prevention modalities. Criminalizing sex work leaves us less safe and less able to allocate limited resources to interventions that serve our communities.

We stand with our colleagues, friends, and loved ones who exchange sex for anything of value and attest to the value of their lives and the value of their work.

We reject the stigma and call for an end to the criminalization of consensual commercial sexual exchange.

Co-Chairs of the AIDS United Public Policy Council Committee on Criminalization and HIV

Kelly Flannery
Policy Director
Positive Women’s Network-USA

Benjamin Brooks
Associate Director of Policy and Education
Whitman-Walker Institute