At the moment, the situation in Ukraine is tense and totally unclear to the people. This affects the work of my organisation, LEGALIFE, which promotes the rights of sex workers in my country. For example, we cannot carry out a number of important events and meetings with government representatives. We don’t know whom to contact, as there is one Minister today and another tomorrow. Before, our organisation had initiative groups in sixteen different regions, but our activists who are usually engaged in the advocacy of sex workers’ rights in their areas, had to leave their homes and move away. Some of them don’t contact us and we don’t know what happened to them. We have suspended project activities in these regions, because we can’t do anything there at present. Our newspaper ‘Lilith’, which is written by and for sex workers, cannot be distributed in these regions, for instance.

The situation negatively influences HIV prevention, treatment, and antiretroviral therapy services among high-risk groups, and increases the spread of HIV in Ukraine. Today, the earnings of sex workers are poor, while prevention programmes which provide condoms to sex workers are lacking in Ukraine. This is why we see reduced condom use among them. Some sex workers transfer condoms they got from partner organisations to other regions in different ways, by bus, train, or post. But this does not significantly change the situation.

Today, the earnings of sex workers are poor, while prevention programmes which provide condoms to sex workers are lacking in Ukraine. This is why we see reduced condom use among them

It is also saddening that the government is not able to provide people who are living with HIV, including sex workers, with antiretroviral drugs. The Ministry of Health didn’t purchase the medicines in time. The network of people living with HIV and patients in Ukraine conduct large-scale protest actions in front of the Ministry of Health and other government buildings. My organisation LEGALIFE holds actions in the regions where we have our activists. So sex workers are fully involved in the advocacy work.

Within LEGALIFE, sex workers develop into specialists and do volunteer work with pleasure and devotion. Many of them are no longer afraid to speak out and stand up for their right to quality services and treatment. Sex workers pound on the tables for themselves in different places. A few years ago, one sex worker, for example, attended trainings at LEGALIFE on topics ranging from HIV transmission to human rights. The woman became an active volunteer, while initially the only education she had was nine classes of elementary school. She accompanied me to coordination councils about HIV and tuberculosis at local and provincial levels. This year, she was also active at the national level. She is no longer afraid to defend her point of view as well as the opinions of the entire community of sex workers in Ukraine. Women like her make me proud of the organisation and the activists I work with.

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