"WE don't want to be the ones that are left behind."
This was the plea from Rani Ravudi, the co-ordinator the Survival Advocacy Network (SAN Fiji), a network of past and present sex workers in Fiji.
Ms Ravudi, a transgender sex worker said she dreamt of a society that would not allow their mistreatment and gave them the respect they deserved.
"Once we have equalised in right, we also have equal opportunities to contribute for the betterment of the nation as a whole. We don't want to be the ones that are left behind," Ms Ravudi said.
She said three years after the establishment of SAN Fiji it was realised that Fiji sex workers faced a lot of issues which included little or no education, abuse of all sorts, sexual violence, violence, rape, and abuse of human rights.
She said sex work should also be regarded as work as it puts food on the table for some, roof over their heads and kept their children in school.
"Don't choose my profession for me because most of us are happy being sex workers and this has also been proved by the Integrated Behavioural and Biological Survey and Size Estimation of Sex Workers in Fiji: HIV Prevention Project report."
Ms Ravudi said sex workers, when given the opportunity to actively engage and contribute to the fight against HIV and AIDS, could take back with them the much needed support and understanding they needed to help deal with stigma and discrimination.