Research-to-Action

Study: Decriminalizing prostitution could drastically cut HIV infections

Vox
Monday, July 28, 2014

...About one-third of female sex workers who work in formal indoor establishments, like massage parlours, report experiencing police harassment. Those are considered the safest venues; that figure jumps to 70 percent among those who work outdoors (or informally indoors).

"'Police harassment' can mean anything from police raids to coercion and abuse," says Kate Shannon, lead author on the study. "It can also result in enforced displacement - sex workers being forced to work in more isolated spaces, where they have less access to safety and protection."

When sex workers are displaced to more obscure venues, they have less ability to control their business - from client selection to the types of sexual acts and condom use. More obscure venues leave female sex partners in a weaker bargaining position and more vulnerable to violence from clients. The author's research demonstrates that exposure to police harassment and client violence seems to have an immediate and sustained negative effect on condom use, putting sex workers at higher risk of contracting HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections.