M is for MUTUAL, A is for ACTS

7. Male Sex Work and STDs
Male Sex Work and STDs

In the early 1980s, when public health officials were first recognizing GRID, or Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (now renamed AIDS), a federal report entitled The Ladies (and Gentlemen) of the Night and the Spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (1984) was published.91 This report included a review of international research and the then-current Canadian and international STD legislation.

This federal document found that some young men aged 20 to 24 made a significant contribution to the spread of gonorrhea and were less informed about sexually transmitted diseases than other age cohorts. Nevertheless, the authors concluded that sex workers did "not make a significant contribution to the spread of STDs."92

The Fraser Committee (1985) did find an association between sex work and sexually transmitted diseases. The Committee found that "a majority of prostitutes do contract an STD at least once during their time on the streets. Most however, are very well aware of the problems associated with STDs, visit medical clinics regularly and take precautionary measures, usually requiring customers to use condoms."93

The Fraser Committee also found that sex workers had a high awareness of the dangers of STDs, as well as an awareness of the reputation sex workers had for the spread of such diseases. The Committee explicitly stated that this reputation was unsubstantiated by epidemiologists.94

Shaver (1996) found that both male and female sex workers were cautious with respect to risks related to STDs. Females and males reported similar numbers of sexually transmitted diseases (0.77 and 0.70 episodes respectively). Twenty-seven percent of male sex workers reported having contracted one STD in the previous two years, and an additional 10% reported having contracted two or more STDs in that time.

However, 63% of both women and men reported zero episodes in the last two years, suggesting that there is a small number of sex workers who are chronically infected, as opposed to a large number of sex workers who are occasionally infected.95


  1. Haug, M. and Cini, M., The Ladies (and Gentlemen) of the Night and the Spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Working Papers on Pornography and Prostitution, Report #7, Ottawa, Department of Justice, 1984. [back]
92. Brock, D., "Prostitutes are Scapegoats in the AIDS Panic," Resources for Feminist Research, 1985, 18, 2, p. 14.

93. Fraser Committee (Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution), Pornography and Prostitution in Canada, Ottawa, Department of Supply and Services, 1985, p. 395.

94. Ibid., p. 384.

95. Shaver, F., "Prostitution: On the Dark Side of the Service Industry," in O'Reilly-Fleming, T., ed., Post-Critical Criminology, Scarborough, Ontario, Prentice-Hall Canada, 1996.

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Created: September 4, 1999
Last modified: February 4, 2000
Walnet Dan Allman
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Email: dan.allman@walnet.org