Tag Archive: HIV/AIDS

  1. Comprehensive Sex Ed Not Mandatory in NY State

    Leave a Comment


    Check out this article from New York Civil Liberties Union:

    Comprehensive sexuality education is not a part of the required curriculum in New York State. City schools are not required to provide sexuality education despite a clear need for it: New York City has the highest rates of HIV and AIDS infection in the United States. According to 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data, 41 percent of New York City youth reported becoming sexually active by 9th grade and 58 percent by 12th grade.

  2. HIV/AIDS News Roundup

    Leave a Comment
  3. SWOP-NYC Announces Partnership with Uganda-based WONETHA

    Leave a Comment

    SWOP-NYC is pleased to announce a partnership in solidarity with Uganda-based Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA).

    You can learn more about WONETHA here and here.

    Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA) is a Ugandan sex worker led organization established in August 2008 by 3 passionate and determined sexworkers who have faced harassment, insults, stigma, discrimination and arrest without trial by misinformed societies and who have been stirred into responsive action concerning the plight of other sexworkers in the same working conditions.

    Macklean Kyomya, Daisy Nakato, and Zamu Namagembe, the three young women who founded WONETHA in August 2008 have all had experiences working in the commercial sex industry. Macklean, WONETHA’s Director, was struggling to pay her school fees when she followed the advice of her peers and found regular ‘sugar daddies’as a source of income. After witnessing the violent rape of her friend, she began to search for an organization that would guide and protect her. WONETHA’s programme coordinator Daisy contracted HIV from one of her first clients when she started working in a bar. During her years as a sex worker, there were many threatening exchanges between Daisy and her clients. After a particularly violent client, Daisy also went in search of a group that could help her manage her HIV and assist her in diversifying her income.

    At different times, each of these women joined an organization that claimed to protect and empower commercial sexworkers, and assist them to find better sources of income. Social stigma issues were not addressed, each of the women was given different opportunities to continue their education, attend conferences, build advocacy and writing skills, reach out to other commercial sexworkers, and stand in solidarity with women late at night in Kampala’s brothels and streets.

    However, this organization was headed by a man, and over time these women found that they were continuing to be exploited and manipulated by the male-headed administration. The staff would work, but were never paid on time. International donations were given to the organization to pay for the different needs of the target group, but none of the members ever received what they were promised. International funding for projects and programs was sent, but often disappeared. Many innovative ideas and opportunities were presented to the Chairperson but they were repeatedly shut down. Attempts to reform the leadership and management were made, but were never successful.

    Through this time, the three women were connected by their commitment to improving the self-esteem of women sex workers and breaking the stigma around sexworkers.

    Through their experiences, and with the support of many colleagues in the civil society community, these women decided to form an organization that would genuinely represent their dreams and aspirations of providing “a home and hope for marginalized women”.


    “To unite sex workers; to improve our living and working conditions and to fight for equal access to rights so that sex workers’ human rights are defended and protected.”


    “To work with adult sex workers, organize sex workers claim their rights, call fordecriminalization of adult sex work; promote access to health, legal, and social services; and promote safer sex practices and sex workers’ health and well being.”

    Problem Statement: Why focus on rights of sexworkers?

    Rights Not Rescue: Sex workers are facing a health and human rights crisis in Uganda, yet very little is being done to protect their rights. Research done across Africa shows that the criminalization of sex work leaves sex workers particularly vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse from law enforcement officials and the general public. Sex workers experience routine violence from police, including rape, physical assault, and having their genitals sprayed with pepper-spray.

    In recent engagement of government by sex workers who are members of WONETHA to have sex work decriminalized, sex workers sought to claim their fundamental right to social and economic freedom, equality, dignity, and privacy.

    Why decriminalization?

    Firstly, decriminalization enables the sex industry to be regulated thereby reducing violence against sex workers and cases of human trafficking. It is the oppressors and those committing violence against women who want sex work to remain illegal. Secondly, where sex work is illegal HIV prevalence increases due to difficulties in accessing health care prevention initiatives.

    In the New vision of 19th 05 2009 Dr Kihumuro Apuli, Director of Uganda AIDS Commission stated that HIV prevalence among sex workers is 50% and 10% are male clients between the age of (15-49). As a sex worker Organization we are deeply concerned that this situation is alarming despite Uganda’s role model image in previous years in the fight of HIV & AIDS.

    WONETHA therefore upholds that for sex workers to fully enjoy all their labour-related rights and fundamental freedoms, sex work in Uganda must be decriminalized. Decriminalization will involve the removal of outdated laws which specifically criminalize sex work, enable sexworkers to operate under the same conditions as other workers, and access the same human rights. The sex work industry will be subject to the same laws which apply to all other sectors in Uganda, including existing labour legislation. Other benefits will include;

    • Allowing sex workers to practice their profession openly without fear.
    • Easier access to health care facilities without stigma
    • Reducing the health and life dangers involved in the profession of sex work
    • Allowing sex workers the protection and benefits of the law.
    • More comprehensive health care services for sex workers, including those that address rape, sexual violence, mental health, substance abuse, care of sexworkers who are HIV positive, adolescent health, nutrition and antenatal care/maternal mortality.
    • Freedom to contribute to national tax payment system therefore raising the sex workers self esteem.

    WONETHA emphasizes that the current sex worker situation in Uganda calls for immediate action and if the government does not come out to act then Uganda will lose the battle on HIV/AIDS. As WONETHA we always say that if sexworkers are not safe then no woman is safe.

    For more information contact:

    Kyomya Macklean
    P.O.Box 31762, Namirembe Rd, K’la
    Tel: +256-414-667-730 / +256 -774-603-754.
    Alt Email: wonetha@gmail.com/ kmacklean@yahoo.com
    URL. www.wonetha.4t.com

  4. Final Project: PROS Network Services Finder App for Android and Mobile Web

    1 Comment

    PROS Network Services Finder is a mobile website / Android application that provides a listing of harm reduction services for sex workers in New York City based on GPS location information. The current services listings are organized under the following categories: harm reduction and syringe exchanges, shelters, legal services, youth services, advocacy and support services. In the next version, the application will include a two-way “bad date list” feature as well as the ability to report instances of violence with a focus on combating police violence.

    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.

    Project Statement
    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.)

    Project Scope
    Phase One – Midterm

    • Utilize SMS to digitize a bad date list with (password protected) access

    Phase Two – Final Project

    • Use geo-tagging and GPS to find the closest health services available to sex workers including reproductive health, STI screening, HIV services, and harm reduction services including safer sex supplies and injection supplies.

    Phase Three

    • Create a tool for organizing for court support, events, and actions– both immediate events and longer term planning
    • Create native app for Android and iPhone

    Related Projects

    • 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.
    • The Aphrodite Project – Sexy GPS Shoes – a project that involved ITP students a few years ago.
    • Successful Launch TTC/AIC HIV SMS Quiz Program In Mbarara, Uganda
    • 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.
  5. Condoms and Sustainable Product Design

    1 Comment

    The NYC Condom program was launched February 14, 2007. The program distributes more than 3 million condoms each month throughout the five boroughs to various locations free of charge.

    Condoms are a barrier used primarily during sexual intercourse to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STI transmission. Condoms have been manufactured out of a variety of materials for centuries, however rubber condoms were first used in 1855 and the modern latex condoms were were first used 1920. Due to latex sensitivities and the less effective nature of sheepskin, alternatives to latex were later developed. Polyutherane condoms were created in 1994 and Polyisoprene in 2008. When used correctly, condoms are approximately 95% – 98% effective in preventing STI transmission and pregnant. Currently there are approximately 60 condom companies worldwide producing 8 to 12 billion condoms each year.

    Until the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, condom production was not carefully regulated. While earlier regulation existed in some capacity, it was not strictly enforced. Early rubber condoms were created by dipping glass molds into raw rubber and required adding gasoline or benzene to liquify the rubber. Latex condoms were easier to product and could be formed using water to suspend the rubber instead of toxic gasoline and benzene which were noted as fire hazards in condom factories. Additional benefits to latex condoms were their durability and increased strength as well as thinner material which is believed to increase sensitivity for the users. They also last significantly longer—5 years compared to the three months shelf life of earlier rubber condoms. Other health concerns include the use of a carcinogenic talc on the condom.

    Today’s latex condoms, such as NYC Condom brand condoms, are biodegradable. However, polyurethane condoms are not biodegradable. Condoms are most frequently sealed in a foil or plastic packaging. It is unclear to me whether these materials can be recycled or if they are biodegradable. Companies such as Yulex are experimenting with alternative sources such as allergen free rubber. According to my conversation with the company, it will take several years for the product to come to come to market. The U.S. brand, Sir Richard, will bring a new product to market by creating an ethical brand around the donation of one condom per condom purchased to be donated to the developing world.

    The major US condom brands are manufactured both in the US and abroad. NYC Condoms, the focus of this study, are manufactured by LifeStyle which produce their products in India and Thailand. Other manufacturing locations include:
    • Trojan: U.S.A.
    • NaturaLamb: U.S.A.
    • Durex: Spain, U.K., India, and Thailand
    • Kimono: Japan
    • Beyond Seven and Crown: Japan

    I’ve yet to decipher how NYC Condoms makes money as they are distributed for free. NYC Condoms are a project of the NY State Department of Health. As for the larger condom / safer sex / barrier industry, these products are produced far less expensively outside of the US (at 2 cents a piece compared to 5 cents a piece in the US). Trojan-ENZ Lubricated Premium Latex Condoms (12-pack) cost 63 cents a piece which is 12 times the manufacturing cost. Trojan Ultra Thin Lubricated Premium Latex Condoms (12-pack) cost $1.09 a piece, 21 times the manufacturing cost. So the potential for a high profit margin appears rather significant.

    In the US, condoms are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration to ensure their safety and effectiveness. European condoms that have undergone quality and safety testing are marked by the letters CD. In the UK, Kitemark appears on approved condoms. Other countries have their own testing, regulation, and marking system. The WHO (World Health Organization) has established an international standard which involves checking for holes, bursting volume and pressure, as well as other visible defects.

    There are an immense number of advocates promoting condom usage throughout the world as it is one of the most effective measures in preventing STI transmission, HIV infection, and unplanned pregnancies when used correctly. The list is so large and diffuse, I will refrain from listing it here but doctors, harm reductionists, social works, NGOs focused on HIV/AIDS, sex work, MSM, reproductive heath and wellbeing, etc. are all significant advocates for condoms. The only organizations and individuals I was able to find who oppose condoms do so for religious reasons without footing in science or health research. In Muslim regions of Kenya, condoms are highly stigmatized because they are believed to be needed only by prostitutes or those having affairs and engaging in such activity is against g-d. Similarly, the pope believes that abstinence is preferred. While it is true abstinence, when practiced perfectly, is the most effective way to prevent HIV/AIDS, STIs, and unplanned pregnancy, abstinence only education has proven to be a tremendous failure worldwide.

    Research into the impact of condom production and manufacturing on workers’ health has been difficult to come by. However, I would be in full support of a model where workers are collectized, unionized, and/or the business was a worker-owned cooperative. Clearly their is an opportunity to fill this information gap so that the research to be made public and transparent around the working conditions and impacts on worker health.

    In the west, stigma around sex outside of marriage continue to decrease and barriers to purchasing effective contraception such as decreasing cost and stigma are helping make access to condoms ever easier. Due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS worldwide, condoms have become an important part of fighting the epidemic and are an important resource for both individual and public health.