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Sex workers forced into the shadows

Thursday December 14, 2006
The Guardian

In 1987, I developed one of the first outreach projects in Britain aimed at
reducing drug-related harm and preventing the spread of HIV infection among
Liverpool's street sex workers. In the time I worked with these women, I got
to know them well, I also got to know many of their families, friends and
Sadly, since this time, nothing has changed. The murders of the women in
Ipswich (Report, December 12) have once again highlighted the vulnerability
of women who become involved in the street sex trade to feed their drug
habits. It is a sad testament to society that women are still forced to sell
their bodies in order to buy drugs, which even for a short time helps them
escape the tragedy that is their lives.

First and foremost those that have been murdered are women - they are
somebody's daughter, mother, sister. The insensitivity of the media in the
way they have reported these heinous crimes with the continuous use of
language like "prostitutes" and "vice girls", is a further violation to
their memories.
Draconian policing of the problem of street sex work only drives such women
further into the shadows. Yes, the law is the law; but when laws endanger
some of the most vulnerable women in our society, then they are clearly at
odds with humanity and wrong. Making women work longer hours to pay fines,
hide in the shadows while trying to work undetected or serving ASBOs on them
to prevent them from working make the laws and society complicit in the
murders of these women.

These women do not have a voice; they remain invisible until their names
become front-page headlines, their bodies dumped in a river, a field, the
side of a road, like chip paper or an old tin can. Society makes them feel
worthless, society tells them it is true.

My heartfelt sympathy goes to the families and friends of the murdered
women, but my thoughts are also with those who are still forced to stand on
the streets, trying to hustle the money for a bag or a rock. They have no
choice. There is no pleasure in their drug use, there is no pleasure in
standing on a street corner because you don't want to rob an old lady or
burgle a house. All over Britain street sex workers remain unprotected,
vulnerable and scared. How many more women must die?
Lyn Matthews


I'm a Belgian drug user activist. I've been attracted to drug taking as long as I can remember. I met my drug of choice (speed) in Germany 1990 when I was in the army. I got it from my army-friend who was an Ostend fisherman. I've never injected, says Stijn Goosens. In the early ninety's I started to go to techno, drum and bass (then called 'jungle') gigs. I paid 20 Euro for my first XTC, which is incredible knowing that now it costs 1 Euro.

I still go out partying now and then.

In 2000 I met with people from 'BAD' Belangervereninging Antwerpse Druggebruikers. At that time BAD was a drug user organization for the Antwerp heroine and coke-scene. I was working in the Antwerp night shelter for homeless people then and therefore knew lots of the guy's from the street-scene. In 2001, three friends & me (among them the president of BAD) started working to develop a peer support project for the people who use drugs in the party-scene. Organizing Breakline Peer Support is still one of my voluntary jobs. In 2002 I was elected to the board of BAD (where I met Joep Oomen from ENCOD) and I started organizing the street-scene. This went very well for a while. In no time we went up from about 20 to 150 paying members. The summer of 2002 was a crazy adventure. Because of a change in my professional job I couldn't do the BAD-coordination anymore. I kept on managing Breakline dough.

In order not to completely loose the users voice that we've been building for some years, Joep Oomen, Tonny Van Montfoort and I then founded STAD.

In 2005 I went to the annual International Harm Reduction Conference (IHRC)) in Belfast as a member of a drug user organization. This is where I became active on the International level.

My wife Katrien and I love each other since 1990. We have two children. Morris is two and Katrijn is six years old. I'm a speed user since 1991 having an on and off relationship with it during the most part of the 90's. I have been stabilised on speed for some years now as thankfully, since spring of 2004 I have 'amphetamine sulphate D' from my family doctor so I’m not depended on illegal speed anymore.

I would like to promote this possibility for other speed and/or coke users. Doctors cannot prescribe amphetamine for speed users in Belgium, but my family doctor worked very client cantered with me. First times that I met with her, we worked towards me quitting. For me it was mainly my social environment and the fact that quitting was the only known option that made me decide to try to quit. By calling it 'trying' to quit, I knew for myself that I couldn't.

I talked to my doctor about some people I knew that killed themselves after quitting and that I feared experiencing the same. I also talked of a friend who used Prozac each time he wanted to quit for a period of time. So we tried Prozac. I kept on using my speed the first three weeks that I took it. The Prozac only kicks in after three weeks. I actually never stopped using speed and few weeks later my doctor and me decided to stop the Prozac (in stages).

It worked for this friend, not for me. (But: info got around thru peer support!)

So now I was looking in which cases doctors do can prescribe amphetamine-like products. Doctors can prescribe it for various reasons. People who suffer chronic fatigue for instance can get amphetamine or, if you're diagnosed with 'attention deficit and hyperactive disorder' (ADHD) you can have Methylphenidate known as Ritalin, which is an amphetamine-like product, on prescription.

I read that there is no clinical test, which can decide if you have ADHD, or not. My doctor and I decided that i have ADHD. We did some administration for a medical commission (amphetamine-like products are under special regulation). I started taking methylphenidate. My illegal speed use dropped, but I didn't quit. Then I read that in some cases, people with ADHD can get amphetamine Sulphate D, which is a kind of pure amphetamine. The moment I read this, I started craving… I can have amphetamine instead of methylphenidate, which is only something like amphetamine!

I went to see my doctor and told her the new idea. And we went on with it. I am now able to work without worrying about the medical issue all the time. I’m involved with many different organisations working at a local, national and international level promoting harm reduction and/or drug policy reform generally. These organisations include STAD, Breakline and ENCOD (www.encod.org).

UV Web Articles Archive

Adventures in healing- part II:

Chris H investigates.....some more

In Part I Chris H writes about his stay in a Brazilian spiritist healing sanctuary where he sought help for his hepatitis C and cirrhosis as an alternative to interferon/ribavirin therapy.

One week after his return from the Casa de Dom Inacio, eager to verify any changes that spiritual healing and psychic surgery may have produced, Chris had his 6-monthly blood-tests and ultrascan for possible cancer, and later that month a review with his consultant, Professor Geoffrey Dusheiko.

MORE ...

Road to hell

2 years ago on the 19th January 2004 I completed a year of Interferon /Ribavirin Combination Therapy. When I was diagnosed, (like many others) I was simply told that I had Hep C and Hep B antibodies and that I could die. That was in 2OOO. I declared myself as an “army of one” and living in a little town, nobody knew what I was talking about. Doors were shut in my face; I was told I was over-reacting. Finally the substance misuse team tried to help as best they could.

Fighting and bickering over the same arguments about everything became tiresome, trying to get treatment; looking at all the terminology that the medical profession use to decide whether one is eligible, meets applicable criteria etc. Luckily, I have a German doctor friend, who simply advised me that I deserve treatment and fitted criteria of his country.

So I used the only tool I had. I kept on shouting until I got what I needed.

A Hep C group was commencing but, I felt so lonely as I did not understand what was happening to me, therefore how could I expect others to. The substance misuse team allocated a key worker called Jo who took me to the International Hepatitis C Conference in Edinburgh. I had also been to a mentoring conference in Regents Park, which was really enjoyable in addition to helping me cope by meeting others in the same situation. Meeting others, who had this virus, was a comfort. In Edinburgh, I met two chaps from the UK Assembly. One was Mr Prendergast and the other was Mr Bennett. My social worker and I felt very interested by what they were saying about the UK Assembly and the work that was being done.

When I had completed eight months of treatment I was getting extremely low and it was actually my social worker who advised me to talk to Steve and Paul. They gave me enormous support and also spoke on my behalf to certain authorities. Claire from C-level actually talked to a senior social worker and let him know that this “Hep C Virus” was not in my head. Mr. Bennett also spoke to the same social worker and the UK assembly wrote on my behalf.

Finally, I received help. Changes have been made where I live and I believe the UK Assembly had a part to play in this. I became a Regional Representative and I was so happy to try and help others who have Hep C.

I was also able to see the discrimination, poor access to treatment and second class status of HCV+ drug users, and felt raising this issue to be one of the most important current topics in this country. Living in a small place can make it hard to be an open hep C person in User Involvement. However, I am committed to putting forward the specific needs of drug users with hepatitis C. I am now a member of the management group at the English National Users and hep C Foundation (ENUhF).

Many Thanks to all who helped on the “Road to ...”


NGOs propose new anti-AIDS model

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks - March 23, 2006


JOHANNESBURG, 23 March (PLUSNEWS) - African and international NGOs are

proposing that the widely used anti-AIDS model of Abstinence, Be

faithful and Condom use (ABC) should be replaced. Christian Aid and its partner, the African Network of Religious Leaders

Living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, said they had become aware of

Problems implicit in the model, such as the unfortunate consequence of fuelling


One such assumption was that condom use automatically put a person in the

category of those who could not be faithful or did not want to abstain

from sexual activity outside of an established relationship."ABC, as a theory, is not well suited to the complexities of human

life," the statement charged.

For this reason, the partners said they had developed the SAVE model:

S-afer practices; A-vailable medications; V-oluntary counselling and

testing and E-mpowerment through education.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United


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