STAR-STAR and HERA are winners of the ViiV Healthcare’s Positive Action Challenge

At this year’s 10th IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2019), held in the capital of Mexico from 21 to 24 July, ViiV Healthcare, in collaboration with the International Association for Aids (IAS) on July 23, announced the award winners of the ViiV Healthcare’s Positive Action Challenge: Stigma-Free Services for Sex Workers. This Challenge seeks brand-new ideas or current existing projects that enable sex worker communities and healthcare providers to work together to provide comprehensive stigma and discrimination-free HIV prevention services.

STAR-STAR – The First Collective of Sex Workers in the Balkans and HERA – Association for Health Education and Research are among the three winners of the $ 75,000 Prize, besides Kenya’s HOYMAS Associations and the PACE Society from Canada. Sex worker associations from Serbia, Vietnam and Mexico are winners of the SEED Prize of $ 25,000.

STAR-STAR aims to use this money prize to strengthen programs aimed at the community of male sex workers and transgender sex workers in Northern Macedonia. STAR-STAR, in cooperation with HERA, plans to expand existing services related to HIV and sexual reproductive health for sex workers and advocates introducing new, currently inaccessible preventive methods such as the PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, i.e. protection against exposure to HIV) in male and transgender sex workers.

DPNSEE congratulates our colleagues from North Macedonia and Serbia.

Legal needs and access to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia

Our member organisation HOPS published the Research report: Legal needs and access to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia.

This research represents the first effort to assess the legal needs and paths to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia. It was conducted at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 using a mixed-methods research approach. The quantitative phase included 250 respondents chosen through stratified random sampling, out of which 169 inject/injected drugs, and 107 are/were engaged in sex work over the last three and a half years. The qualitative research phase, on the other hand, was comprised of focus group discussions with 69 respondents from both communities, as well as individual or group interviews with 7 representatives from competent institutions.

The research results showed that people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia experience ten times more non-trivial justiciable problems in comparison to the general population in the country. In addition, low level of legal literacy, lack of trust in institutions and systemic discrimination, among other factors, prevent citizens from these communities to seek protection of their rights and delivery of justice through institutional mechanisms. Such circumstances confirm the communities’ high vulnerability and underline the need for advancement of their access to information, legal advice and protection.

The findings pinpoint the necessity to educate people who inject drugs and sex workers on existing institutional mechanisms for protection of rights and delivery of justice, and motivate them to take actions towards legal resolution. Since citizens from these groups trust civil society organizations the most, CSOs are the first instance where they seek free legal advice and aid. Hence, services offered to these communities by civil society organizations need to be developed further, while also advancing the cooperation between the organizations and the competent institutions, including introduction of functional referral mechanisms.

Recommendations of the report also include that overcoming prejudices against people who inject drugs and sex workers in institutions responsible for ensuring the legal order, such as the police, Legal Needs and Access to Justice for People Who Inject Drugs and Sex Workers in Macedonia prosecutors, courts and prisons is crucial. This could be achieved with temporary measures, such as trainings, field and study visits, but also through more sustainable systemic changes in the process of professional training of employees in the aforementioned institutions. Similar measures could be useful for health and social workers

To read full report follow this link>>>>. Version of the report in Macedonian is available following this link >>>>.

Programmatic Mapping to Estimate Size, Distribution, and Dynamics of Key Populations in Kosovo

The burden of an HIV epidemic in Kosovo* lies among the key populations (KPs) of female sex workers (FSWs), men who have sex with men (MSM), and people who inject drugs (PWIDs). The aim of this study was to estimate the size and distribution of these populations to create evidence for developing action plans for HIV prevention.

Results of this Study: Study in Kosovo

Of the estimated 6814 men who have sex with men (range: 6445 to 7117), nearly 4940 operate through the internet owing to the large stigma and discrimination against same-sex relationships. Geo-based men who have sex with men (who operate through physical spots) congregate at a few spots with large spot sizes (13.3 men who have sex with men /spot). Three-fourths of the men who have sex with men are distributed in 5 major municipalities. Fridays and Saturdays are the peak days of operation; however, the number only increases by 5%. A significant number are involved in sex work, that is, provide sex to other men for money. People who inject drugs are largely geo-based; 4973 (range: 3932 to 6015) people who inject drugs of the total number of 5819 (range: 4777 to 6860) visit geographical spots, with an average spot size of 7.1. In smaller municipalities, they mostly inject in residential locations. The numbers stay stable during the entire week, and there are no peak days. Of the 5037 (range: 4213 to 5860) female sex workers, 20% use cell phones, whereas 10% use websites to connect with clients. The number increases by 25% on weekends, especially in larger municipalities where sex work is mostly concentrated. Other than a few street-based spots, most spots are establishments run by pimps, which is reflective of the highly institutionalized, structured, and organized female sex workers network.

This study provides valuable information about the population size estimates as well as dynamics of each KP, which is the key to developing effective HIV prevention strategies. The information should be utilized to develop microplans and effectively provide HIV prevention services to various KPs.

To read more about this study follow this link >>>>