For the midterm project, Matt Swenson and Sarah Jenny created an SMS-based resource for those in the sex trade (including those who engage in sex work by choice or circumstance as well as those who are in the sex trade under coercive circumstances such as trafficking). Users the phrase “nyhelp” and their New York City zipcode to 41411 and receive the contact information for the closest social service provider. (Example: 41411 nyhelp 10003) The resource list was carefully crafted after consulting the PROS Network, a coalition of social service providers offering services to sex workers and other marginalized populations from a harm reduction and human rights perspective.
Matt and Sarah researched existing mobile services for sex workers, including the SOROS Foundation’s Open Society Institute collaboration with Tactical Technology Collective. This research informed their work in terms of functionality, usability and the content provided.
Midpoint assignment: Present your idea(s) for a final project in 5 minutes. You should have a draft problem statement, goal statement and should describe the type of project you want to pursue. As your problem statement should be a social or political problem, you will take this issue on as your case study for the rest of the semester, tracking developments, news and related projects. You will hereafter be required to update the class twice before the end of the semester on your issue and your project.
Problem Statement Sex workers face a number of barriers when accessing services such as mental health care, social services, STI and HIV screenings. The barriers to access of services are exacerbated by pervasive cultural stigma, legal obstacles, poverty, education, and other factors. In Recent years, mobile technology adoption rates have soared in much of the global south. Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS prevalence is highest in these countries. As such, it seems quite a natural progression for those combating the stigma and the virus (through prevention and care) to utilize mobile technology to increase information access and education.
The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has created an extremely difficult climate for NGOs and NPOs who work with sex worker populations to maintain adequate access to funding in their programs due to the require of the Anti-Prostitution Pledge, essentially silencing them by putting restraints on organizations by requiring them to sign an anti-prostitution pledge regardless of whether prostitution is legal, decriminalized, or illegal by their own local laws. These grassroots agencies and organizations are most equipped to identify victims of trafficking as well as to penetrate this difficult to reach population and provide services. PEPFAR’s policy further discriminates against sex workers. For example, Andrew Hunter of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers noted that doctors are not allowed to answer questions regarding what sex health concerns are medically valid around MSM (men having sex with men) sex work. Denial of services and education are not effective HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment policy, plain and simple.
I intend to continue learning about efforts to use SMS and mobile technology as a means for disseminating information around HIV/AIDS in the global south. I will continue to look at existing programs and policies that are working to make change, it seems, outside of PEPFAR funding. I would like to continue this work, examing what has been effective and through my research and prototyping, make recommendations and continue developing technology on this subject to increase HIV/AIDS prevention and services access to marginalized populations, including by not limited to sex workers, primarily in the global south. I would like to test a pilot program in New York City in conjunction with the Bureau of AIDS and the PROS Network (a coalition of service providers and others providing harm reduction services here in New York City.)
Text to Change: Text to Change (TTC), a non-profit organization in Africa, has been using mobile technology for health education since 2008. TTC has been running a fun, innovative and practical HIV/AIDS education program in three countries — Uganda, Kenya and Namibia. This program not only educates participants about AIDS but also encourages infected patients to seek medical help and adhere to medication.
How SMS Could Save Your Life (Wired Magazine): GUGULETHU, South Africa — How do you make the expertise of two doctors and two nurses spread far and wide enough to take care of more than 500 HIV/AIDS patients? In this gritty township, the answer is text messaging.
Tactical Technology Collective (TTC) – I put out a call for information to harm reduction and sex worker contacts. I received a report back from the Open Society Institute’s Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP) which was commissioned in preparation for a 2007 meeting of sex worker activists. It was written by Melissa Gira and Tactical Technology Collective (TTC) and looks at how sex workers groups are using technology in their work.
Synopsis: I intend to study how SMS and mobile technology is working in the field of HIV prevention in sex worker populations.
UGANDA: Using mobile phones to fight HIV –
Text to Change (TTC) , an NGO that uses a bulk short message service (SMS) platform for HIV/AIDS education, recently partnered with the AIDS Information Centre in Uganda (AIC) and Celtel, a local mobile phone network, to pilot a project in western Uganda aimed at communicating knowledge about the disease and encouraging subscribers to volunteer for HIV testing.
WHO’s HIV/AIDS sex work toolkit –
In many parts of the world, sex workers have been among the groups most vulnerable to and most affected by HIV since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic.
Sex Workers and HIV Prevention – Prevention campaigns aimed at sex workers not only reduce the number of HIV infections that result from paid sex; they can also play a vital role in restricting the overall spread of HIV in a country. Proof of this can be seen in countries such as Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic and Thailand, where general reductions in the national HIV prevalence have been largely attributed to HIV prevention initiatives aimed at sex workers and their clients.
Ecuador Sex Workers Target HIV-AIDS Prevention – Sex workers in Ecuador are building a national labor network and trying to curb HIV-AIDS, while dealing with the growing presence of minors and undocumented workers in brothels. The first of six stories on Ecuador’s sex industry.
This interactive installation appears as a mirror to the viewer. When they step on the pressure sensor, a microcontroller triggers LED lights to backlight the lightbox, revealing the image of Catherine Lique, a sex worker who was killed in 2003. The accompanying audio piece, a first person narrative, tells the story of the life and death of Ms. Lique. The audio, also triggered by the sensor, is programmed to play through Processing. The narrative was written by Catherine’s daughter, Stephanie.
Memorial for Catherine Lique is the first of a series to honor and remember sex workers who have been victims of violence. The first installation was completed on December 17th, 2009, coinciding with the International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers.
About the Artist: Sarah Jenny is a New York-based multimedia and mixed media artist and masters candidate at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Interactive Telecommunications Program. For more information about the artist and project, please visit www.sarahjenny.org
This piece is in progress. It is an interactive installation which will also have an audio recording (narrative) triggered by the same sensor that triggers the lights. The first person narrative will reveal the life and death of Catherine, a sex worker murdered in 2003.
This series will be an ongoing memorial for sex workers who have been victims of violence.
The first draft will be completed on December 17th, 2009 to coincide with the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.