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Sex industry workers
Apr 21, 1997

I have read many of your questions, and they have all been very useful to me. On some of the questions, many people have had encounters with prostitutes. I was just wondering if you had any statistics on the rate of infections among sex industry workers nation wide, or in California. I am sure many of your readers who use the services of sex workers will definetly find this valuable. Thanks alot for your time.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

There have been a number of studies looking at the rates of HIV infection among prostitutes in the USA. Studies were done in various cities around the USA including Miami, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, and New York City. Rates of infection varied from study to study, ranging from approximately 3% to over 31%. Some rates of infection among male prostitutes were even higher. This wide range is not surprising, since some prostitutes are more likely to practice safer sex than others. Also some prostitutes become infected through drug use (including IV drug use), whereas other prostitutes are not addicted to drugs.

Not surprisingly, the rates of infection with other STD's can be even higher than HIV. For example, in one study, the rate of HIV infection among prostitutes was 3%, but in that same study, the rate of Hepatitis B was 39% and the rate for Hepatitis C was 45%. In a similar study, the rate of HIV among prostitutes was approximately 3%, the rate of Hepatitis B was 33%, and the rate of syphilis was 34%.

It's very important to remember that these statistics CANNOT be used to determine a persons personal risk when having sex with a prostitute. This is because a persons personal risk of infection varies greatly from situation to situation. The risk depends upon many different factors. For example, the risk can depend upon the level of risk of the prostitute (some prostitutes are at higher risk of infection than others). The risk also depends upon the specific sexual activity that was engaged in (some sexual activities are higher risk than others), and whether protection was used (use of condoms significantly reduces the chances of infection).

The information above applies solely to illegal prostitutes in the USA. Rates of infection may vary widely in prostitutes in other parts of the world. In addition, in the state of Nevada (USA), prostitution is legal and regulated in certain parts of the state. Prostitutes working legally must test HIV negative in order to work in the states legal brothels. To date, no actively working prostitute in Nevada's legal brothels has ever tested positive for the HIV virus. There have however been prostitutes who applied to work in the legal brothels, were found to be HIV positive, and were therefore prohibited from working in the brothels. Because of their positive status, these women never worked in the brothels. But for actively working legal prostitutes in Nevada, none to date have tested HIV positive. For more information about Nevada's legal brothels, go to the question, "Are registered prostitutes HIV free?".

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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