Hands Off – Reducing violence against sex workers

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Building on the success of the first phase, Hands Off 2 (2019-2026) actively collaborates with sex worker-led organizations, religious leaders, law enforcement, service providers and NGOs dedicated to human rights in efforts to reduce violence against sex workers.

Based on sex workers’ own priorities and needs, activities include rights literacy training and capacity strengthening of sex worker movements, strengthening emergency response systems and roll out of national, regional and global lobby for law and policy reform.

Time frame

2019 - 2026


Sex workers


€ 10,000,000


Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe

25 %

of HIV infections among sex workers can be achieved by reducing violence against them

70 %

of sex workers in Southern Africa have experienced violence


Modelling estimates show that a reduction of almost 25 percent in HIV infections among sex workers can be achieved when physical or sexual violence is reduced. The first phase of the Hands Off programme has proven that a combination of engagement with police in the HIV response, setting up emergency response systems and movement building results in reduced violence against sex workers.

Sex workers who work in countries where sex work is criminalised are more vulnerable to violence and abuse and have an increased risk of HIV infection. Violence can lead to inconsistent condom use and stops sex workers from accessing health care services and social and legal support that can help protect them from HIV. In Southern Africa almost 70 percent of sex workers report having experienced violence. This ranges from beatings and rape to being arrested for carrying condoms and being arbitrarily detained.


The Hands Off programme works to reduce violence against sex workers at community, national and regional level. Specific long-term outcomes include:
– an empowered, resilient and united sex worker movement demands its rights;
– increased access to and use of justice systems and health services inclusive for all sex workers;
– a more supportive, enabling and inclusive environment for sex work;
– sex workers are protected and served by law enforcement.

Lessons and best practices

Read best practices and lessons learned on reducing violence against sex workers from the Hands Off programme (2015-2019). Aidsfonds and fourteen in-country partners, including many sex worker-led organisations, share their success and insights on what works to prevent violence. Learn more on topics, such as working with the police to reduce violence, community-led crisis response systems and increasing access to justice.

Access best practices

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