Published September, 2013

Criminalizing Condoms: How Policing Practices Put Sex Workers and HIV Services at Risk in Kenya, Namibia, Russia, South Africa, the United States, and Zimbabwe; Acacia Shields; Open Society Foundations (2012).

This Open Society Foundations report examines common trends in police practices of searching suspected sex workers, confiscating and/or destroying their condoms, and using condoms as evidence to support arrest and/or prosecution for sex work-related offenses. The author presents qualitative data from sex worker and outreach worker interviews in six countries. While each sample size is too small to be statistically significant, similar experiences within and across countries support the notion that law enforcement abuse and structural barriers to public health goals persist.

Interviewees' experiences with law enforcement fell into four general categories: police confiscation and destruction of condoms; condoms as justification for arrest; police harassment of outreach workers who distribute condoms; and police surveillance of outreach workers to target sex workers. The author discusses the consequences of these practices, and the ways in which HIV prevention is undermined by the criminalization of sex work. Lastly, she offers recommendations for local and federal governments (applicable in all six countries assessed in this report), as well as for public health and HIV researchers.