Journal of urban health : bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 2017 05 03() doi 10.1007/s11524-017-0155-0
Previous research indicates that criminalization of sex work is associated with harms among sex workers. In 2013, the Vancouver Police Department changed their sex work policy to no longer target sex workers while continuing to target clients and third parties in an effort to increase the safety of sex workers (similar to "end-demand sex work" approaches being adopted in a number of countries globally). We sought to investigate the trends and correlates of rushing negotiations with clients due to police presence among 359 sex workers who use drugs in Vancouver before and after the guideline change. Data were derived from three prospective cohort studies of people who use drugs in Vancouver between 2008 and 2014. We used sex-stratified multivariable generalized estimating equation models. The crude percentages of sex workers who use drugs reporting rushing client negotiations changed from 8.9% before the guideline change to 14.8% after the guideline change among 259 women, and from 8.6 to 7.1% among 100 men. In multivariable analyses, there was a significant increase in reports of rushing client negotiation after the guideline change among women (p = 0.04). Other variables that were independently associated with increased odds of rushing client negotiation included experiencing client-perpetrated violence (among both men and women) and non-heterosexual orientation (among women) (all p < 0.05). These findings indicate that despite the policing guideline change, rushed client negotiation due to police presence appeared to have increased among our sample of female sex workers who use drugs. It was also associated with client-perpetrated violence and other markers of vulnerability. These findings lend further evidence that criminalizing the purchase of sexual services does not protect the health and safety of sex workers.