December 17: International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

December 17, 2015

LOVE Park (1599 JFK Blvd.)


A rally & vigil for Sex Workers who have been victims of violence and harassment, to acknowledge that sex work is work, and that Sex Workers are being intensively exploited and murdered by capitalism & patriarchy.

All are invited to speak out, the brave may share their stories, and we will both condemn & strategize against the causes of this exploitation and oppression.

Email rsccphl@gmail.com if your organization would like to endorse this rally.

Learn more at www.december17.org 


The Real Impact of the Swedish Model / “End Demand” on Sex Workers

We receive a number of questions about the Swedish Model, Partial Decriminalization, End Demand Initiatives. In these approaches, criminal penalties are not leveraged against sex workers, but those who purchase sexual services and third-parties, such as market facilitators. While a welcome concept in practice, such an approach hold many risks for the sellers of sex, and continues to marginalize and oppresse sex workers, survival sex workers and survivors of sex trafficking in many ways. We hope you will consider reading this report from the Global Network of Sex Work Projects:

This is a 13-page summary of the Advocacy Toolkit: The Real Impact of the Swedish Model on Sex Workers. It is a collection of fact sheets and advocacy tools on the harmful Swedish model. It can be used to challenge the widespread promotion of this detrimental legal and political approach to the regulation of sex work.

Contents include:

  • Sweden’s Abolitionist Understanding, and  Modes of Silencing Opposition
  • Impacts of the Sex Purchase Law: Street- Based Sex Work and Levels of Sex Work
  • Impacts of the Swedish Model’s Justifying Discourses on Service Provision
  • Impacts of Other Legislation and Policy – The Danger of Seeing  the Swedish Model in a Vacuum
  • Right to Work and Other Work-Related  Human Rights
  • Sex work and the Right to Health
  • Sex Work and  Arbitrary Interference with Families
  • Sex Work and  Violence: Obligations of the State

You can download this 13-page PDF above.


Let’s End the Criminalization of HIV/AIDS

Please join our partners AIDS United in ending the criminalization of sex work. The following blog post has been reblogged from SWOP-USA.

December 1st is World AIDS Day. On World AIDS Day, Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA calls to end mandatory testing and the criminalization of HIV. We also call on the United States to end the practice of using condoms as evidence in prostitution arrests and the criminalization of sex work which increases sex worker vulnerability to HIV. And we support Adult Film communities’ fight against legislation introduced by Michael Weinstein and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation president that would require adult film actors to use condoms in and allow the general public to sue producers for failing to use condoms in porn.


Tell your senator to combat the criminalization of HIV by becoming a co-sponsor of the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act!



Police in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and San Francisco frequently confiscate condoms from sex workers and trans women and use condoms as evidence to support prostitution charges. According to the Human Rights Watch:

New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and San Francisco have reported high rates of HIV among sex workers and transgender women, and targeted HIV prevention among these groups as an urgent priority. The US government provides millions of dollars to each of these cities to prevent HIV among groups at high risk, including sex workers and transgender women. Yetsex workers told Human Rights Watch that they turned down offers of condoms from outreach workers.
  “These cities gave out 50 million condoms last year,” McLemore said. “But the police are taking them out of the hands of those who need them the most.”


In August, three large adult industry STI testing and treatment facilities were served subpoenas demanding the release of adult performer medical records dating back to 2007. Filed by Michael Weinstein of the Aids Healthcare Foundation, the subpoena is part of an ongoing crusade against condomless porn–one that is far from over. Weinstein is seeking to pass “The California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act,”a broader, state-wide version of Measure B, the 2012 ballot-measure that mandated condom use on adult film sets in LA county. The measure would allow the broader public to sue adult film producers for failing to use condoms in adult film, even giving a financial incentive to due so. California will vote on the California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act in 2016. To learn more about what’s wrong with the Act, read Red Light Legal’s blog: CA Voters Will Put Porn Performers at Risk.


According to the HIV Law and Policy Report (p. 292):

TLancet-sex-work-infographichirty-two (32) states and two (2) U.S. territories explicitly criminalize HIV exposure through sex, shared needles or, in some states, exposure to “bodily fluids” that can include saliva. At least thirtyfive (35) states have singled out people who have tested positive for HIV for criminal prosecution or enhanced sentences, either under HIV-specific criminal laws or under general criminal laws governing crimes such as assault, attempted murder or reckless endangerment.

Because sex workers are criminalized for engaging in an activity at risk of transmitting HIV, sex workers are frequently subjected to mandatory HIV testing during interactions with the criminal justice system and sex workers often face disproportionate burdens for the criminalization of HIV.

* Between 2000-2010, in Nashville, Tennessee, 25 individuals were charged with “aggravated prostitution” and at least one individual engaging in sex work was charged with HIV exposure. Sex Workers disproportionately took the brunt of the criminalization of HIV and accounted for 63% of the 41 sexual exposure to HIV-related charges filed in the 10 year period. (source)

* Nearly half of those charged engaged in substance use or had mental disabilities, and one­-third were homeless.

* Street-based sex workers and individuals engaging in sex work to meet immediate survival needs, sex workers who use drugs, sex workers of color, and trans women face disproportionate criminalization and (due to the use of condoms as evidence, increased risks of violence, decreased ability to say no to clients who refuse condoms) are disproportionately vulnerable to acquiring HIV and are disproportionately criminalized for engaging in sex work while HIV.+

Mandatory Testing

At least thirty-two states have statutes permitting involuntary HIV testing of certain suspects, defendants, or convicts (source) and at least 25 states have statutes permitting mandatory testing of individuals arrested for, charged with, or convicted of prostitution.(source) *Note, in these 25 states, statutes may refer to all “sex crimes,” all crimes, or specifically to prostitution.

Statutes criminalizing engaging in sex work while HIV+

Engaging in sex work while HIV+ can result in a second, felony conviction for HIV exposure or “aggrevated prostitution.” Statutes criminalizing engaging in Sex Work while HIV+ are often broader than general statutes that criminalize engaging in sex while HIV+.

General statutes criminalizing HIV often require an actual transmission or engagement in a sexual activity likely likely to transmit HIV (Condom use is  often regarded as an affirmative defense. Individuals cannot be criminalized for giving a hand job while HIV+). In a number of states, they also require intent to transmit HIV. Finally, disclosure of HIV status is often an affirmative defense.

In contrast, to be convicted under statutes that criminalize engaging in sex work while HIV+:

*No activity likely to transmit HIV required: (except, possibly, in Florida, although “likely to transmit” is not defined). states specifically criminalize violation of prostitution-related statutes, which include oral sex, hand jobs, sex with condoms, while HIV+. Since many of these charges occur following sting operations, no actual sex act must take place. (Source)

*Disclosure is not a defense: (except in Georgia, Florida) (Source)

*Intent to transmit HIV is not required: (all states) (Source)

States that Specifically Criminalize Engaging in Sex Work while HIV+ (Source) – Update 5/2015 (Source)

California | Colorado | Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | Missouri | Nevada | Ohio | Oklahoma | Pennsylvania | South Carolina | Tennessee | Utah

Knowing HIV status is often a requirement: an individual often must KNOW HIV+ status to be charged under these laws. Knowing your HIV status is key to starting anti-retroviral therapy, which reduces HIV viral loads and risks of transmitting HIV. Knowing your status is also critical in preventing the spread of HIV.



Additional Resources on HIV and Sex Work

The Center for HIV Law and Policy (Website)

HIV and Sex Work (The Lancet)

Mandatory Testing and the Criminalization of HIV+ Sex Workers in the United States (SWOP-USA)

Subpoenas and Community Condom Policing: The War on Condomless Porn (SWOP-USA | Free Speech Coalition)CA Voters Will Put California Porn Performers at Risk in 2016 (Red Light Legal)

Sex Workers at Risk: Condoms as Evidence of Prostitution in Four US Cities (Human Rights Watch)

Global Report: Good Practice in Sex Worker-Led HIV Programming (NSWP)

The SMART Guide to HIV & Sex Work (NSWP)The Right Evidence: Sex Work, Violence and HIV in ASIA (NSWP)


New! A Group for Survivors of Sexual Violence

Julia Gottlieb, LCSW and Dr. Cynthia Closs, DSW, are forming a therapy group for female identified persons 18 years or older who have survived sexual violence. This group’s intention is to provide affirming space in which persons collaboratively work to identify emotional needs, improve upon self-care, personal safety, and self-soothing strategies, safely share narratives and emotional experiences while offering and receiving authentic support. Additionally, this group will emphasize methods to promote empowerment and resilience and discuss techniques to strengthen voice.

Further, the group will attend to sexual violence that was experienced during late adolescence and/or adulthood and we are asking that each group participant remain in individual therapy as a means of addressing issues that would be most effectively processed in individual treatment. Ideally, group participants will have had no inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations over the past six months and will have an established recovery and/or harm reduction plan to support abstinence or decrease substance misuse. Additional specifics about group can be found on the attached flyer and below:

Group Information

Location:       525 South 4th Street Philadelphia, PA 19147

Start Date:     Monday, January 4, 2016

Fee:                 $50.00 per session (sliding scale payment is available!)

Group:             6-8 participants, closed group, 12 sessions

If you have a client who has survived sexual violence and may benefit from group support, please feel free to contact Cynthia Closs, DSW, LCSW at 215.694.2383 or cynthiacloss@gmail.com or Julia Gottlieb, LCSW at julia.m.gottlieb@gmail.com or 484.362.9792. We will be happy to share more information about group and discuss the referral process.

Julia Gottlieb is a licensed clinical social worker who has experience working with folks around gender, trauma, grief & loss, depression, anxiety and HIV/AIDS. Julia is dedicated to creating a safe and non-judgmental space to build and nurture a therapeutic relationship conducive to personal growth using a trauma-informed practice that involves a psychodynamic, feminist and humanistic approach. She received her Master of Social Service from Bryn Mawr College.

Cynthia Closs earned her Clinical Doctor of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania and has been a practicing clinical social worker for over ten years. She has a deep commitment to working with persons who have survived sexual violence, trauma, and abuse, work with persons of trans*/queer experience, and persons in varying stages of recovery from addiction. Cynthia has completed post graduate training in both gestalt therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy and incorporates feminist, harm reduction, and social justice lenses into her clinical work. Most recently, Cynthia was the Sexual Assault Counseling and Education Coordinator for Temple University’s Tuttleman Counseling Services and a behavioral health consultant for Philadelphia FIGHT’s John Bell Health Center.

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Advancing Health by Reducing Harm: Increased Opportunities for Viral Disease Prevention

On Wednesday October 28th the Coalition for Syringe Access hosted two panel discussions on pathways to reduce the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C (HVC) among people who inject drugs. The panel brought together experts on disease transmission, prevention and recovery and law enforcement who highlighted opportunities to strengthen partnerships between public health and public safety programs to reduce infection rates.