Regarding the inspiring piece "Grease the wheel" (Jan. 20): What incredible work Believers United for Progress and Elder Kasib Abdullah are doing to address poverty and the inequality and racism that have undermined Hayti residents' historic pursuits of vibrant community. BUFP gives youth nourishment and opportunities to dream their dreams in Hayti and beyond!
Yet even heroes have their blind spots, such as carrying signs that read "Hoes Have/Spread AIDS" to disperse sex workers on the street. Publicly shaming commercial sex workers and stigmatizing HIV/AIDS itself is a saddening and destructive act if the goal is to build "community atmosphere." Better moves would be to offer the same food and hospitality to sex workers that community service groups offer to youth, addicts, and others—hard, good work, of course, and potentially separate service referrals.
These are the facts: Wherever HIV is highly stigmatized, it spreads far more quickly. Wherever people with drug-addiction-plus-HIV diagnoses are offered housing, their lives turn around. Wherever commercial sex work is legalized worldwide, the rights and safety of sex workers improve drastically, and violent human and sex trafficking are intercepted more easily (look to approaches in India, Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden and Australia). In the meantime, people who either choose or are exploited into sex work all deserve to be members of our communities, without self-defeating efforts from fellow residents that lead to stigma and shaming.
Liberation comes through "mutual respect." This is tough stuff in the South and globally: Nelson Mandela gave freedom to so many, and was also protested for early 1990s inaction around HIV/AIDS in communities led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. May they both be our teachers. Blessings to all doing such brave community-building work as BUFP.
Marie Garlock, Durham