Sex-worker study: Taking sex indoors cuts violence and HIV infection

By Susan Lazaruk, The Province May 10, 2012
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Safe, supportive housing for marginalized prostitutes that allow them to take clients inside reduces the women’s exposure to violence and HIV infection, according to a Vancouver study.

Researchers interviewed 39 women who reside in housing for poor drug-using sex workers, where they have access to support staff and police. The former street workers, who had seen clients in cars, alleys and the johns’ homes, reported that when they worked indoors they had more control over the sexual transactions, including their right to refuse an act, and an ability to negotiate condom use and avoid violent predators, the study found.

The women-only buildings ensure that guests sign in and there are video cameras, staff on hand to call police if necessary and health and safety resources on-site.

There are three rules at the housing operated by Atira Women’s Resource Society, said spokeswoman Jan-ice Abbott: “No dealing drugs, no violence and no pressuring other women into doing something they don’t want to do.”

The residents aren’t questioned about who they entertain in their rooms but have to escort them in.

The study’s senior author, Kate Shannon of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said the study shows working indoors reduces the risk to the health and safety of sex workers.