The definition of criminal offenses, the selective implementation of the law, and the resulting stereotypes generate a self-enforcing loop of discrimination and exclusion to the detriment of all. The exclusion of so many legitimate voices from this year’s AIDS conference is just one example.
The US immigration rules place restrictions on the ability of sex workers and people who use drugs to enter the country. These rules are but one example of the many ways in which national and international laws, regulations and policies are impacting on the HIV vulnerability of most at-risk groups across the world.
The U.S. law that prohibits sex workers and drug users from attending the IAC from abroad is a frightening sign of the times. As co-directors of two U.S-based sex workers rights organizations, we stand with sex workers in their global fight for rights.
Drug users and sex workers represent the majority of people living with HIV in many countries, and are among the most at-risk of infection everywhere. The irony of allowing people living with HIV to the conference while refusing those likeliest to be—or become—infected has not been lost on everyone.