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"SEX WORK POSES NO RISK: Money Is Not A Health Risk" 7 Feb 08

Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association, calls for changes to S. 25 of the ACT Prostitution Act and an investigation into actions by health officials in relation to this case.

Today, the ACT Magistrates Court heard charges against a sex worker under section 25 and 12 of the ACT Prostitution Act (1992).

"Unfortunately s.25 of the Prostitution Act 1992 is poorly named knowingly infecting which has caused much confusion amongst the public and media outlets. This charge relates to a person providing commercial sexual services when they knew, or were likely to know they are infected with a sexually transmissible infection. This charge has been misunderstood and misrepresented as though the person is charged with the transmission of an STI".

Janelle Fawkes, CEO of Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association, said "This misleading terminology has resulted in a domino effect with public health officials taking unprecedented measures of publicly releasing a persons HIV status and media reports that people were put at risk when there is no evidence of such."

"Clearly the case has not shown evidence of any person put at risk of transmission or any occasion of risk to clients. As such the handling of this matter by ACT Health and AFP has raised unnecessary community concern" says Ms. Fawkes.

"The normal public health processes were not followed in this case due to over-reaction around sex work being practiced by someone with HIV. Safe sex poses very little risk of transmission and the risk is not increased when one party is a sex worker or cash is involved. Both sex work and having sex when someone has HIV is not criminalised in the ACT, unless the two are combined, even though the combination poses no additional risk when safe sex is practiced." said Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance

"Rather than taking a public health approach, the media has been used in such a way as to alarm the public, with little regard for providing accurate information about HIV, or prevention of transmission." said Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance

"Unfortunately the misleading terminology within the Act and the decisions by ACT Health to release private health information causes discrimination against sex workers, HIV positive people generally and the individual involved." said Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance "Potentially the approach to this matter will discourage people at risk of HIV from testing and treatment - and that is not an effective public health outcome." Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance

"Discrimination and stigma live on well after the details of specific cases are forgotten. We now have a responsibility to ensure the processes followed by ACT Health are not repeated and to ensure the successful implementation of safe sex in sex industry workplaces is acknowledged." Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance

"Research shows that Australian sex workers are effectively implementing safe sex practices with their clients on a daily basis. Clients of sex workers often do not believe themselves to be at risk of HIV therefore it is most often the sex worker that must negotiate and implement safe sex practices." Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance

"When safe sex is implemented, including the use of condoms and lubricant, the risk of HIV transmission is very low. Condom use amongst Australian sex workers is very high and works well, evidenced by the low rates of HIV amongst sex workers in Australia. But, as we all know, safe sex is a shared responsibility. Both client and sex worker are responsible for safe sex". Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance

Scarlet Alliance believes that HIV positive sex workers should not be excluded from working in the sex industry. Discrimination doesn't stop HIV transmission, safe sex does.