Last week I was at the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) which took place in Harare, Zimbabwe. I was one of the speakers of the Bridging the Gaps satellite session entitled ‘How to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030? Key populations are paving the way.’ As a proud sex worker and director of WONETHA in Uganda, I wanted to talk about why it is so important to improve the human rights of key populations.
My organisation WONETHA has trained 36 peer educators in Uganda during the Bridging the Gaps programme period. These peer educators ensure that sex workers have knowledge about HIV and can access legal services in case they need it. They also refer sex workers to health services and provide them with condoms.
Despite all achievements sex workers still face many challenges, for example the changing legal environment in Uganda. New laws and legislation, such as the NGO Bill, prohibit us to organize and mobilize sex workers to access services and stand up for their rights. There are traditional and religious values and beliefs, which keep key populations from enjoying their rights as human beings.
I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a friend, a lover, and I am a sex worker, and proud to be one. Sex work is my profession, I chose to be a sex worker, like someone else chose to be a lawyer.
Also in health facilities there are high levels of discrimination, despite of the universal right to health. In Uganda, women need to bring their husbands along to be able to access services. This denies their right to health and the right to have a healthy child.
During my speech in Harare I called upon all allies to jointly advocate for the decriminalization of key populations and to invest in and empower civil society to hold governments accountable. Please join us!