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Decriminalising prostitution would 'slash HIV rates among sex workers'

Some sex workers don’t carry condoms, to avoid arrest. This is a big problem.

File photo from an anti-criminalisation protest in Paris, France.
File photo from an anti-criminalisation protest in Paris, France.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE BEST WAY to tackle the rate of HIV infection among female sex workers and their clients, would be to decriminalise prostitution across the world, according to a major new report published today.

The sweeping research, revealed this morning in The Lancet and at the International AIDS Conference in Australia, found that a global end to the criminalisation of sex work would avoid at least one third of such infections in the next decade.

A host of new research will be presented this week at the conference this week, which has been in the news in recent days for tragic reasons.

On Friday, it was revealed that up to 100 of the passengers killed on Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 were AIDS researchers and activists making their way to the conference in Melbourne.

Among the major findings presented today are those included in “Global epidemiology of HIV among female sex workers: influence of structural determinants”, a study led by Dr Kate Shannon from the University of British Columbia in Canada.

They include the following:

  • decriminalising prostitution is the single most effective way to cut HIV infection among sex workers, and bring down rates by more than one third
  • reducing sexual violence against sex workers could cause rates to drop by 20%
  • improving access to anti-retroviral therapy (ART) could decrease rates by a third

Sex workers around the world are facing a pandemic of HIV infection, according to other research presented today.

Whereas 0.8% of the general global population are infected, the numbers are stark for sex workers, as this graphic shows:

hiv-prevalence Source: The Lancet

Criminalising prostitution, according to the research, increases rates of HIV infection, partly because many sex workers (one third) don’t carry condoms, which are often used as evidence of illegal sex work.

For details of all the research being presented at this year’s conference, check out Aids2014.

Scroll down to read “Global epidemiology of HIV among female sex workers: influence of structural determinants.”

Read: Death rates for HIV-positive adults have halved>

Pimps ‘taking advantage’ of delay in new prostitution law>

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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