Saturday, March 7, 2009


Sex work study missed mark

Re: "One quarter of female prostitutes HIV-positive," March 5

I'm writing to correct a major error in the reporting of findings from a B.C. Excellence in HIV/AIDS study. This study was essentially a review of existing literature around HIV/AIDS prevalence among high-risk populations in Vancouver, including survival sex workers in the Downtown Eastside.

However, the reporting wrongly extrapolated its findings to include all sex workers — the vast majority of whom are indoor workers (escorts, erotic massage, independents) who were never among the groups studied.

One of the primary myths around sex work is that those who do the work are vectors of disease. For those who work in the frequently miserable conditions of outdoor survival sex work, HIV/AIDS is obviously a risk due to high addiction rates and, perhaps more significantly, unwillingness to turn away customers who refuse to use a condom. Indoor sex work is a very different industry, however — one that has gone virtually unstudied and unreported on in Canada.

An estimated 80 to 90 per cent of Canadian sex workers are indoor workers. The limited studies that have been done on the tens of thousands of Canadians who work in the indoor industry have found dramatically lower rates of HIV/AIDS, violence, coercion and misery. Yet this group of workers is routinely lumped in with survival street workers for the purpose of sweeping statements on the fate and health of sex workers overall.

Sex workers are extremely stigmatized as it is, and feel the tremendous impact of that on their lives every day. Research and reporting that overlooks the numerous differences between indoor and outdoor sex work can only perpetuate that.

– Jody Paterson

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Created: March 10, 2009
Last modified: June 20, 2009
CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710