Sex work study missed mark Times Colonist March 7th, 2009

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

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

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 everyday. Research and reporting
that overlooks the numerous differences between indoor and outdoor sex work can
only perpetuate that.

Jody Paterson



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