Oregon: Sex Workers' Advocacy Service Closes
After eight years promoting safe sex, needle exchange and clean, well-lighted strip clubs, the Portland, Ore., nonprofit Danzine is falling to a weak economy and shrinking public health budgets. Activist and exotic dancer Teresa Dulce, 31, started Danzine in 1995 as a magazine for Portland-area sex workers. In 1996, she registered it as a nonprofit, offering needle exchanges and health services. Other agencies will continue some services but most will stop by June.
Danzine never had direct government funding, but got in-kind help such as use of a computer from the Multnomah County Health Department and a steady supply of needles. Now those kinds of help are drying up. "We took a beating in these last [budget] cuts, I'll tell you," Dulce said.
Danzine offered information about disease prevention and free or inexpensive health care to sex industry workers, legal and otherwise, who were often more inclined to trust Danzine than the government, health officials said. "They are strong advocates for people who work in the commercial sex industry," said Margaret Lentell, who runs Multnomah County's STD programs. Losing Danzine severs one link to industry workers, which "could have far-reaching effects in the community," she said.
Dulce won a 2001 Price Fellowship to learn more about HIV prevention at CDC, a "very prestigious" award that goes to three people a year, Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Gary Oxman said.
Danzine was born as one photocopied page of information, with sixty copies passed out in local strip clubs. Early issues addressed which clubs, in which cities, had the best pay and working conditions. They also included tips on safety, law, needle exchange programs and where to buy dancing clothes. Dulce edited 18 issues in eight years. In 1998, the group started the Bad Date phone tree, where industry workers could pass on descriptions of dangerous clients. Danzine has disposed of 183,650 syringes since 1996, Dulce said. Multnomah County will pick up that program.