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Sex Workers Demonstrate AIDS protection

Australian sex worker, Janelle Fawkes, and her unidentified compatriot who dressed as a male client, show hot to put on woman protection gear to delegates at the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand Thursday, July 15, 2004. Fawkes demonstrated how to check clients for sexually transmitted diseases and negotiate safe sex. The conference is running until Friday. (AP)

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Decked out in a pleather bodysuit and fishnet stockings, Australian sex worker Janelle Fawkes demonstrated how to check a client for diseases while still letting him feel comfortable and sexy, and how to negotiate safe sex.

“There are ways of getting condoms on clients when they don’t even realize it’s happening, and making it sexy so they don’t mind using a condom,” she said.

Fawkes’ presentation about empowering sex workers to protect themselves took place in a convention center foyer at the 15th International AIDS conference in Bangkok.

Part of her exhibit was a phallus-shaped sculpture made of condoms and dental dams and signs that read “Debby doesn’t do it for free.” “We need to be able to design our own sex programs to reduce STIs, HIV and stigmatization,” Fawkes, president of the Scarlet Alliance of sex workers in Australia, told an audience of more than 100 people. She has worked in the sex industry for 15 years.

“The messages have to be very explicit and clear. We have to use strategies that talk about sex, otherwise the message won’t get across,” she said. “Sex workers need to be informed to protect themselves. It’s not just about handing out condoms.” She demonstrated on a fellow sex worker, dressed as a male client complete with a fake penis, how she would check his genitals for visible signs of sexually transmitted diseases.

She also showed how she could wear a latex dental dam — used for protection in oral sex — attached to a holster, to turn prophylactic use into a “fetish.” Fawkes also led a skills-building workshop this week for sex workers called “Whor-i-gami” — a play on the Japanese art of paper folding, origami — in which towel-folding was part of a larger discussion about safety issues for sex workers.

In the first few minutes of interaction with a client, a sex worker is “doing risk assessment, seeing how the client reacts to what she says about condom use,” she said.

Fawkes said legalization of prostitution would be one of the best ways to protect sex workers and their clients.

“We’ve talked to many sex workers ... and they say police use condoms as evidence to charge them for being sex workers,” she said.

“Police should not be the regulators of the sex industry,” she said. Lawmakers need to make it so “sex workers can regulate themselves.”

Programming by Ayten Alizadeh. Copyight by IntraNS. All rights reserved.