Should health checks be mandatory for prostitutes?
Randall Todd, DrPH, former Chief Epidemiologist of the Nevada State Health Division, was quoted in the Sep. 1, 2002 Overdrive Magazine article "Nevada Brothels" written by Andy Duncan as having said:
"Nevada’s attitude is: Prostitution is going to happen anyway. Given that the best efforts to end it have failed, does it not make more sense from a public-health standpoint to regulate it and minimize, as much as possible, the health consequences?
In an average year in the brothels, we might see, statewide, a dozen or two dozen cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia combined, and we have seen no syphilis cases at all in several years. That’s not really very much, since each working girl can expect five or six parties a day – much more sex than the average female would be having, so her risk of exposure is much greater. Moreover, 99 percent of the time, a legal prostitute likely got the STD from a husband or boyfriend, through ‘extracurricular’ sex, outside the brothel."
Umberto Tirelli, MD, Director of the Department of Medical Oncology at the Oncologic Referral Center at the National Cancer Institute in Aviano, Italy wrote "Health and Tax Legislation For Prostitutes" posted on his website (accessed Feb. 7, 2007) that:
"The opponents of compulsory health check-ups should bear in mind that in our country there are many categories of employees that are obliged to undergo medical check-ups at regular intervals which means they cannot work if their health conditions are not found to be sound. On the contrary, it seems like in our country no one worries about the fact that HIV-positive prostitutes can go on working without anyone being able to stop them.
...[T]he health check-ups would have an educational effect in that prostitutes could be more easily convinced to use condoms at all times, even when clients offer higher prices to have unprotected sex, and they would be induced to do so because they would be aware that if the regular check-ups determine that they are affected by a sexually-transmitted disease (not only HIV), they would have to stop working.
This is exactly what happens in Berlin and Amsterdam where it is virtually impossible for a client to have sex without a condom, because the prostitutes, who are obliged to undergo regular health check-ups, definitely refuse to do so."
Dennis Hof, owner of Moonlite Bunny Ranch brothel in Nevada, said in an interview entitled "Live from the Moonlight Bunny Ranch" posted on Court TV's website (accessed Feb. 7, 2007) that:
"16 years of mandatory testing, over 100,000 tests -- there has never been one case of HIV in a Nevada brothel. The ladies are checked weekly for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and monthly for HIV.... Nevada only contributes one half of one percent of all the sexually transmitted diseases in America, partially attributed to the success of the brothel....
There's prostitution everywhere, the choices are you're either going to legalize it, regulate it, tax it, and make sure there's proper health checks, or you're going to turn your head and pimps are gonna take 14 year-old girls and put them on the streets or in massage parlors with no background or health checks."
Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations (AFAO) policy analyst John Godwin wrote in the Apr./May 2003 HIV Australia article "Two Steps Back?" that:
"AFAO is concerned about the negative public health impact of the proposed law. Mandatory health requirements stigmatise sex workers and fail to promote good health outcomes.
Australian sex workers have very low rates of STIs and HIV, and most enjoy better sexual health than the general community. There is a strong culture of safe sex in the industry and condom use is now an almost universal practice. Excellent sexual health standards have been developed voluntarily, without criminalising the involvement of sex workers with STIs or HIV in the industry."
Norma Jean Almodovar, Executive Director of Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE) LA and Southern California, wrote in a Jan. 2, 2007 e-mail to ProCon.org:
"The history of the laws against prostitution and prostitution regulation... are a history of exploitation, extortion, fraud, violence etc… Reasons not to have mandatory health check ups [include]:
(1) prostitutes are responsible for about 3 to 5% of all sexually transmitted diseases in the US - high school and college age people are responsible for about 75% (according to CDC statistics). If we are to mandate health check ups because of the fear of STDS, ought we not to start with those who are most responsible for them?
(2) mandatory health check ups... led to the formation of the 'abolitionist' movement in the late 1800's - the bureaucrats were extorting the prostitutes for sexual favors and money if they wanted their 'license' and clean bill of health….
(3) the government does not know how we do our work, so mandatory health check ups would not conform to the way we work. For instance, there are prostitutes who... bring their clients to orgasm using only their hands. Why on earth would they need to go have their sex organs inspected on a weekly basis if they don't use them in their work?...
In the Netherlands, the government was going to impose mandatory health check ups on the sex workers, but when they learned that the sex workers were already getting tested far more frequently than the government was going to require them to, they changed their minds. Why 'fix' something when it ain't broke?"
Veronica Monet, prostitute and author, wrote the Nov. 17, 2005 article "Mandatory Testing: The Fear That Feeds The Falsehood," posted on the Erotic Service Providers Union website that:
"Mandatory testing is fraught with a multitude of issues that suggest that it is not only ineffectual in reducing the incidence and spread of STIs but it may actually cause the spread of more disease. The 1800s saw a rash of Contagious Disease Prevention Acts first in England and then in the United States. Rather than reduce the spread of venereal disease, the incidence of venereal disease rose steadily during the period until the act was repealed...
Mandatory testing is the ineffectual cry of fear from those resorting to the oldest human frailty of thought and behavior: Us against them. Whether this way of thinking is applied to justify genocide, slavery, detention camps, or mandatory testing, it all boils down to a hateful attempt to separate oneself from a perceived other who serves as a scapegoat for conditions we all face as human beings."