International conferences: Creating, Mirroring, Redistributing Marginality

Stream: Rapid Papers 1
Date: Thursday, 31 March 2016
Time: 3.30 pm – 4.45 pm


Introduction: International conference spaces; ICAAP, IAS, Biomedical, Research Conferences, are regular and plenty across the HIV and STI sectors. So much so, community organisations could spend all day every day and every spare dollar participating, influencing and attending. As a community representative I have attended many of these events, and during a four year PhD research project I documented one ICAAP (Bangkok, 2013) and one IAS (AIDS2014, Melbourne). My research questions included "How do sex worker community organisations deal with International Conference spaces?"

Methods: Literature review, qualitative case study of Scarlet Alliance Australian Sex Workers Association and Empower Foundation Thailand. This included participant observation, interviews and general documentation.

Results: Sex worker organisations struggle to engage productively with International Conference structures. Key issues include barriers to travel to international conferences, lack of affirmative action for community voices at conferences, lazy and apparently arbitrary poor choices by abstract review teams that do not recognise the importance of community or community partnerships, lack of resourcing for autonomous sex worker spaces and organising within conference structures, and a general distaste by conference organisers for the types of content that sex worker communities want to raise.

Conclusion: International conference spaces have not been effectively impacted by the actions and involvement of sex worker community organisations during the course of the HIV epidemic, or contemporary interest in STIs.

Recommendations: An open and frank review of the way that International conferences reinforce, rather than challenge, marginalisation of affected communities should take place as a matter of priority.


Elena Jeffreys (Presenter), School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland
Biography to come.