...It's a conclusion supported by a large body of research evidence, including now a series a seven papers on HIV and sex workers published this week by the medical journal Lancet.
One of the articles analyzed published studies on HIV rates among sex workers, condom use and other data from three cities - in India, Kenya, and Vancouver.
Author Steffanie Strathdee of the University of California, San Diego said it's clear sexual violence against female prostitutes and the criminalization of their work make them less likely to use condoms.
Eliminating sexual violence would avert an estimated 17 per cent of infections in Kenya and 20 per cent in Canada by creating safer working conditions in which sex workers could demand clients use condoms, she said.
But her team showed that decriminalizing sex work would have a far bigger impact in reducing transmission.
"We've shown that up to 46 per cent of incident HIV infections could be averted in any of the three cities we examined by just fully decriminalizing prostitution," she said.