The role of sex workers in HIV/AIDS prevention and education was acknowledged at last Sunday’s World AIDS Day awards, with two members of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) receiving awards.

Sex workers Saul and Erica won Outstanding Contri-bution and Partnership awards respectively for their lobbying and volunteering work. Saul told Sydney Star Observer that his work was far from over.

It was difficult to receive an award in the current situation, he said.

I’m scared that in five years’ time this award will become a symbol of shame for me because we didn’t do enough, soon enough, to assist sex workers in NSW to protect themselves and their clients.

Saul said the illegality of sex professionals operating from home in most council areas was a major concern. Such laws meant that commercial amounts of condoms and safe-sex information found on a person’s premises could be included as part of circumstantial evidence that the venue was operating as a brothel.

When the sex industry can’t keep literature about current trends and safe-sex practices, then the whole community is put at risk, not just those workers, Saul said.

As a gay man, I experience the same tiredness of the prevention measures we’ve been using for the last 20 years, but as a sex worker, I can’t afford to let my guard down. I’m more frightened now than I was in 1985, because I see how the prevention strategy has been undermined by the government.

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