Research for Sex Work 13: HIV and Sex Work

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Research for Sex Work 13: HIV and Sex Work is a peer-reviewed publication for sex workers, activists, health workers, researchers, NGO staff and policy makers. It is available in English and Chinese. All issues of Research for Sex Work can be found here.

Contents include:

By Laura María Agustín

Anti-Pornography Crackdowns: Sex Work and HIV in China
By the China Sex Worker Organisation Network Forum

In China prostitution is illegal and defined as pornographic pollution of the social and cultural environment. Every year the Chinese police carry out crackdowns that make mass sweeps of sex workers. With support from the United Nations, the China Sex Worker Organisation Network Forum (CSWONF) conducted research to understand the impact of these crackdowns on HIV prevention in sex workplaces. Contents include:

  • Who We Are
  • Our Research (Methods and Conclusions)
  • Health Impact of Crackdowns (Recommendations)

Living With HIV: How I Treat Myself
Told by Diputo Lety to Elsa Oliveira

Diputo Lety is a HIV positive sex worker in Johannesburg. In this article, she describes her experiences with health services as a sex worker, her safer sex practices in her work and her experiences as a peer educator for the Sisonke Sex Worker Movement, educating other sex workers about preventing STIs and HIV.

Men At Work: Male Sex Workers, HIV and the Law
By Brendan Michael Conner

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law (UNDP, UNAIDS) calls for the decriminalisation of sex work. Conner critiques, nuances and adds to these recommendations, that fail to examine the intersections between different populations that are key to a succesful response to HIV. The article focuses on the intersection of sex work and men who have sex with men (MSM). Contents include:

  • On Men Who Have Sex With Men
  • Why Male Sex Workers Are Different
  • Non-Prostitution Laws are also Used against Male Sex Workers
  • The Next Step Forward

Blaming Disease On Female Sex Workers: A Long History
By Tiphaine Besnard

Medical and psychiatric notions have been central to how people think about female sex workers, both in the 19th century and today. Medical ideas about the dangers of sexual contagion in
public spaces in France were already abundant when AIDS appeared. The model of prevention we hear about now is similar to the one that linked moral concepts of sexuality with health in the 19th century. Contents of this article include:

  • 19th Century Knowledge
  • Pseudo-scientific Ideas
  • How People Talk about Disease
  • Sex-worker Activism

Working With the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria
By the Empower Foundation Thailand

In 2009, sex worker-led organisation Empower was invited by The Global Fund to work together with Planned Parenthood to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by collaborating on a new HIV-prevention programme for female sex workers in Thailand. In 2011, Empower was dropped as a partner by Planned Parenthood that, although the project was succesful. Among the reasons to end the collaboration were the hiring of sex workers and the failure to 'create harmony' for raising concerns on stigma and discrimination. Contents of this article include:

  • How the Programme Works
  • Our Concerns
  • Dropped!
  • What We Learned from this Experience

Sexual-Health Outreach in Machala, Ecuador
By the Asociación ‘22 de junio’ and Colectivo Flor de Azalea

Photos from Machala, Ecuador, where sex workers founded the Asociación Trabajadoras Autónomas ‘22 de junio’ de El Oro in 1982.

Promoting Sex Worker-Led Research in Namibia
By Matthew Greenall and Abel Shinana

This article describes trying a new approach to research on HIV and sex work in Namibia. It is based on the ideas that, to be effective, HIV programming must understand and address the specific contexts affecting sex workers, that simply asking sex workers questions about HIV is not the best starting point and that sex workers themselves are in the best position to describe their own social contexts. Contents include:

  • Teamwork in Community Research
  • Themes from Our Research
  • How Our Research is Different

The Tide Can Not Be Turned Without Us
By Cheryl Overs

Summary of a presentation during the International AIDS Conference held in Washington DC in 2012, a key event because of US immigration law that prohibits sex workers from entering the US to attend and because the Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival in Kolkata it created. The publicity about sex workers’ rights generated worldwide and the support within the HIV community are historic.

Gay Parties and Male Sex Workers in Nigeria
By Kehinde Okanlawon and Ade Iretunde

In Nigeria, where both same-sex activity and sex work are criminalised and socially condemned, gay parties offer safe places of hope. Parties are also used a a place to educate on HIV prevention and offer health services. Contens include:

  • How Health Workers Discriminate
  • Using Medications

No Condoms as Evidence: A Sex-Worker Campaign in New York
By Audacia Ray and Sarah Elspeth Patterson

Sex workers and allies have known for years that in places where prostitution is a crime, police will take condoms from sex workers to use them as evidence, particularly against street
workers.This study finds that this policy discourages condom use by people who are most vulnerable to HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases.

‘The Space Which Is Not Mine’: Sex Workers Living With HIV/AIDS in Venice and Edinburgh
By Nicoletta Policek

A study into women involved in outdoor sex markets in Venice and Edinburgh, where street-based sex work is criminalised, in 1992-2010. The study finds that sex workers living with HIV/AIDS continue to experience stigma and discrimination. Contents include:

  • Focus on Places
  • The Place of Care for Sex Workers Living with HIV/AIDS

Female-Condom Use in Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Nigeria
By Winny Koster and Marije Groot Bruinderink

Consistent condom use is an effective method to protect against sexual transmission of HIV, and, according to its promoters, the female condom gives women more control over protecting themselves than the male condom. But it has not been clear whether female sex workers, like other women, are always able to control the use of female condoms or whether they like using them. Contents include:

  • How We Found Our Participants
  • Using the Female Condom
  • Who is in Control?


You can download this resource as a 32 page PDF above or download the individual articles through the links.