Last updated on: 2/15/2008 8:33:00 AM PST
Would Legal Prostitution Reduce HIV/AIDS?

PRO (yes)

Glenn Betteridge, LLB, Senior Policy Analyst for the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, was quoted in its Dec. 13, 2005 press release entitled "New Report Calls On Federal Government To Decriminalize Prostitution" as having said:

"These laws [criminalizing acts associated with prostitution], and the way in which they're enforced, push sex workers into situations that put their health and safety at risk, and leave them open to stigma and discrimination, violence, and possible exposure to HIV."

Dec. 13, 2005 - Glenn Betteridge, LLB 

Priscilla Alexander, Co-founder of the National Task Force on Prostitution, in the 2001 Research for Sex Work article "Contextual Risk Versus Risk Behaviour," wrote:

"For HIV/AIDS prevention to succeed, the conditions of risk have to change. The context – legal, social, economic – of sex work has to change, with repeal of criminal laws, access to visas and work permits, freedom of movement and association, and occupational safety and health regulations, to reduce the imposition of risk from above. Until then, it will be heroic, strong individuals that can insist on safe behaviours, leaving those who are less heroic, those who are more timid and afraid, to suffer the consequences of the context of risk."

2001 - Priscilla Alexander 

Gabriela Silva Leite, Co-ordinator of Rede Nacional de Profissionais do Sexo, said in an interview posted July 16, 2003 on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer's website that:

"[Legal] prostitution is definitely helping to stop AIDS. Since 1989 we were one of the first movements, along with the gay men's movement, to engage in this fight and to work with prevention. Demanding condoms for men, we've been working with the government seriously, and we are one of the players in this fight inside the Brazilian solution to AIDS."

July 16, 2003 - Gabriela Silva Leite 

Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations (AFAO) policy analyst John Godwin, in the Apr./May 2003 HIV Australia article "Two Steps Back?" wrote:

"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."

Apr./May 2003 - Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations (AFAO) 

Paul Armentano, Senior Policy Analyst for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), in The Future of Freedom Foundation's Dec. 1993 Freedom Daily article "The Case for Legalized Prostitution," wrote:

"[T]he rising threat of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases has become one of the most compelling arguments for the complete legalization of prostitution. According to current evidence, roughly half of the street prostitutes in Washington, D.C., and New York City are HIV-positive. In Newark, New Jersey, the estimate is that close to 60% of all prostitutes carry the AIDS virus. Yet, in the relatively 'free market' of Nevada, where prostitution is legal, not one (as of 1989) of the state-licensed prostitutes has ever tested positive for AIDS.

It is true that Nevada's licensed bordellos require monthly blood tests, but such precautions would likely occur in the absence of state regulation. The reason is economic: the bordellos compete with each other, and the suppliers have strong incentives to ensure that the 'service' that their customers receive is safe. Clearly, the spread of AIDS would be reduced by the decriminalization of prostitution services."

Dec. 1993 - Paul Armentano 

CON (no)

Jeffrey J. Barrows, DO, Health Consultant on Human Trafficking for the Christian Medical Association, wrote the article "HIV and Prostitution: What's the Answer?" posted Sep. 9, 2005 on The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity website that stated:

"Even if a prostitute is being tested every week for HIV, she will test negative for at least the first 4-6 weeks and possibly the first 12 weeks after being infected. If we assume that he or she takes only 4 weeks to become positive, because there is an additional lag time of 1-2 weeks to get the results back, there will be at best a window period of 6 weeks for a prostitute. The average prostitute services between 10-15 clients per day. This means that while the test is becoming positive and the results are becoming known, that prostitute may expose up to 630 clients to HIV. This is under the best of circumstances with testing every week and a four-week window period. It also assumes that the prostitute will quit working as soon as he or she finds out the test is HIV positive, which is highly unlikely. This is not the best approach for actually reducing harm. Instead, in order to slow the global spread of HIV/AIDS we should focus our efforts on abolishing prostitution."

Sep. 9, 2005 - Jeffrey J. Barrows, DO 

John Bambenek, Executive Director of the Tumaini Foundation, posted Jan. 2, 2007 on the website Wide Awakes Radio the article "The ACLU is Fighting for the Trafficking of Women Worldwide" that said:

"[T]he advocacy for legalized prostitution and AIDS prevention are mutually exclusive. One cannot support the reduction of AIDS infections and support legal prostitution at the same time. Prostitution remains one of the leading vectors for AIDS infection. This is true in the case of both legal and illegal prostitution.

Prostitutes, because of their many partners, have a greatly increased risk of exposure to HIV. They are likewise able to spread HIV to many other partners. While a promiscuous society can approach a similar infection rate, prostitution is a leading avenue of spreading HIV. While on its face condoms seem like they could prevent the spread of AIDS, the trust [sic] is that they don’t. HIV infection rates increase in countries that have condom distribution programs. Abstinence programs, on the other hand, has been shown in Uganda to reduce AIDS infections. The simple truth is that when one only has sex with one's spouse, the risk of AIDS exposure approaches zero."

Jan. 2, 2007 - John Bambenek 

Janice Raymond, PhD, former Co-Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), wrote the Mar. 25, 2003 "10 Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution" posted on the Prostitution Research Education website that:

"A legalized system of prostitution that mandates health checks and certification only for women and not for clients is blatantly discriminatory to women. Women only health checks make no public health sense because monitoring prostituted women does not protect them from HIV/AIDS or STDs, since male clients can and do originally transmit disease to the women."

Mar. 25, 2003 - Janice Raymond, PhD 

Tony Nassif, Founder and President of the Cedars Cultural and Educational Foundation, wrote the July 19, 2005 letter posted on its website, which said:

"Whether legal or illegal, prostitution doesn't stop the spread of disease and the devastation of the human soul as well as the disintegration of the culture, society, and nation...

What happens to the family of a man who engages a prostitute (legally or illegally) if and when he contracts an STD? What happens to the family if he contracts AIDS and spreads it to his wife? What happens to the children when they find out and ultimately lose their parents to a preventable disease?"

July 19, 2006 - Tony Nassif