Protesters Storm AIDS Conference
BY Advocate Contributors
July 20 2010 1:35 PM ET
Calling themselves Star Whore III, a raucous group of protesters stormed the media center at the International AIDS Conference site in Vienna on Tuesday afternoon, twirling red umbrellas and catching journalists by surprise with chants of “PEPFAR kills sex workers!” and “Face us, Goosby!”
The group, organized by the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, loudly criticized Eric Goosby, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator and chief implementer of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which requires that any organization that receives PEPFAR dollars must have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.
After protesters circled a stunned media center, word quickly spread through the crowd that Goosby himself was in a nearby press briefing to discuss male circumcision and HIV. Activists pounded on the door to the briefing, overwhelmed security staff, and jumped a dais to surround Goosby. Security officials quickly whisked him through a rear exit as activists chanted, “Why do you flee from us?”
Sex worker activists are calling for a revision of PEPFAR that would decriminalize sex work, ensure universal access to HIV services, increase economic and social opportunities for sex workers, and allow for better HIV testing, treatment, and care.
“We’re here to demand justice, health care, and safety,” said Liz Copeland, a sex worker and activist who traveled to Vienna from the United States. “I’m ashamed to be part of a world where sex workers are killed by governments who refuse to provide free condoms.”