The authors reviewed 18 years of research into sex work, policing, health, and incarceration to asses the relationship between criminalization and health outcomes. Some of the authors’ key findings indicate that 1) over-policing is associated with an increased risk of violence against sex workers from clients, partners, and/or law enforcement; 2) sex workers targeted by law enforcement are at higher risk of acquiring HIV due to associated increased participation in risky sexual behavior; and 3) criminalization creates an environment that limits sex workers’ abilities to create support networks, negotiate with clients, and access health services.
Based on the data available from California and Florida in particular, it is indisputable that sex workers face disproportionate harm through arrest, prosecution, and conviction under HIV-specific criminal laws. This study confirms additional ways in which criminalization and biased policing create a dangerous environment for sex workers. HIV criminal law reform must include sex workers -– at the table and, most critically, in proposed reform bills.