This article advocates for the decriminalization of sex work and examines the effects of the practice by police of using condom possession as evidence of prostitution-related offenses. The authors found that this police practice can diminish condom use among vulnerable populations, thereby increasing the risk of HIV transmission.
The article notes a high HIV prevalence among female sex workers and transgender women. Many factors cause these populations to be particularly vulnerable to HIV infection, including "stigma, social and physical isolation, economic deprivation, and legal and policy environments that criminalize their behavior." The authors found that the use of condom possession as evidence of prostitution-related charges undermines HIV prevention and testing efforts. While they acknowledge that decriminalization would not eliminate all sex work-related risks, "it would allow sex workers to self-organize and work with law enforcement officials" and that "[e]mpowerment of sex workers through legal recognition of their occupation . . . maximizes their protection and dignity and helps to ensure equal access to health services and to justice."