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Latin American Journalists Honored for Reporting on Sex Workers' Health

Reports from Chile, Argentina, and Colombia are winners of the Fifth Latin American Health Journalism Awards

Washington, D.C., 12 November 2009 (PAHO) - Three journalists whose reporting humanizes the experiences of sex workers have won the top three prizes in the Fifth Latin American Health Journalism Awards of Red-Salud ("Health Network").

The awards—sponsored by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the United Nations Population Fund, the Communication Initiative, and the New Ibero-American Journalism Foundation—are designed to motivate Latin American journalists to do more and better reporting on health-related issues.

The Latin American and Caribbean Network of Sex Workers helped organize this year's contest, which had two categories: "sexual work and health" and "blood donation" (winners in the "blood donation" category were announced in September). First-place winners in each category receive $2,000, second-place $1,000, and third-place $500.

The top three winners in the "sex work and health" category were chosen from among more than two dozen entries from some of the region's top newspapers, magazines, and web sites.

The winners are:

  • Photo from the winning article (Courtesy El Ciudadano)
    First prize: Mauricio Sebastián Becerra Rebolledo, for "If we're healthy, we're pretty," published in El Ciudadano, Chile. Becerra's article describes the social, psychological, and health challenges facing transgender people involved in sex work. It delves into the emotional and physical sacrifices entailed in the transformation of gender identity and describes the impact of the HIV epidemic on the transgender community in Chile's capital. Becerra also poignantly illustrates the effects of prejudice and stigmatization on this vulnerable population. Becerra is El Ciudadano's web editor.

  • Second prize: Juan Manuel Federico, for "The woman who is alone and waits," published in Prensa Red, Argentina. The article takes a careful and humanistic look at the problems surrounding sex work, including poverty, childrearing, legal discrimination, police abuse, and abandonment, but also the hopes and dreams of sex workers. The article exposes the harsh realities of life on the streets and shows how sex workers are the victims of crime and human rights violations. The author covers police and judicial affairs for Córdoba's daily newspaper, La Voz del Interior.

  • Third prize: Manuel Antonio Velandia Mora, for "Between dreams and reality…where is health?" published in Semana magazine, digital edition, Colombia. Velandia's article examines the physical, social, and psychological construction of gender identity by transvestite sex workers in Colombia. It shows the risks to health posed by various invasive procedures and products used to enhance these sex workers' physical femininity. It provides information for health professionals as well as the general public. Velandia is a sociologist, philosopher, sexologist, and columnist who holds a doctorate in nursing and healthcare culture.
A fourth article, "Sex can cost you your health," by Magdalena Herrera and Gabriela Vaz of Diario El País, in Uruguay, received a special mention. 


Announcement of winners (in Spanish, with links to articles)

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world's oldest public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

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