Legalizing Prostitution Would Protect Sex Workers From HIV
If prostitution were legal around the world, the transmission of HIV among female sex workers would go down by at least a third, according to a paper presented at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.
That would be a huge step forward. “Sex workers face a disproportionately large burden of HIV,” the paper notes.
Goats and Soda spoke to Dr. Kate Shannon, director of the Gender and Sexual Health Initiative of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in British Columbia, and lead author of the paper published in the July 22 journal The Lancet.
What led you to do research on HIV and female sex workers?
This is part of a larger series of research on sex workers and HIV that also looked at transmission among male and transgender sex workers.
Why has the criminalization of prostitution made sex workers more vulnerable to HIV infection?
We see across many settings that criminalization leads to more violence. Policing practices displace sex workers, sending them to more hidden places where they’re less safe and where they lose the ability to negotiate conditions, such as condom use.
It seems counterintuitive: A greater police presence in the sex trade leads to more violence and less safety for sex workers. How does that happen?
From our review, we see that policing efforts include bribes, confiscating condoms, police harassment, forced detainment and abuse. And where sex workers experience violence, or fear violence, they’re more likely to have to do things like jump into vehicles quickly [for sex] with a reduced ability to negotiate condom use.
Photo: Masked Indian sex workers protest alleged police atrocities in Bangalore last year. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)