Harm Reduction International: New report on Sex Work and Drug Use launched at ICAAP11

A new report that looks at the intersectionality of sex work and drug use was launched at the 11th National Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP11).

‘When sex work and drug use overlap: Considerations for advocacy and practice’ is a report by Harm Reduction International and The Global State of Harm Reduction that ‘examines the multiple and varied contexts within which drug use (including use of alcohol and non-psychoactive substances, including some hormones and image- and performance-enhancing drugs) and sex work overlap.’

The report looks at factors that contribute to the vulnerability of persons who sell sex to drug use and drawing from experiences in harm reduction targeting persons selling sex and who use drugs globally, it also offers practical suggestions on how such programmes can better serve persons who sell sex.

The report also sought to inform policy and programmatic discussions on drug use among sex workers as sex work and drug use is often overlooked within the HIV and harm reduction policy and programmatic responses. ‘In much of the world, HIV and harm reduction services for sex workers and people who use drugs fall far below necessary coverage levels,’ the report noted. Where they exist, programmes are rarely tailored towards people who both use drugs and sell sex. Barriers to accessing services are particularly pronounced for this population, not least due to the stigma surrounding both drug use and sex work, and the prevailing legal and policy environments in most countries that criminalise aspects of both.’

The report also noted that criminalisation of sex work and drug use counter HIV programmes as well as infringe on the human rights of sex workers and people who use drugs. ‘Punitive laws and policies relating to drugs and sex work have been recognised as counter to HIV and harm reduction responses and human rights principles. Criminalising sex workers and people who use drugs causes harm.’

Among the key recommendations of the report, especially for effective HIV responses for people who sell sex and use drugs include

  • Collaborations between existing services for sex workers and people who use drugs;
  • Ensuring services are tailored to the particular community they aim to reach;
  • Training staff on how to work with populations that are new to them;
  • Hiring members of the population being served;
  • Removing barriers to service access;
  • Creating space for the development of a network or collective of people who sell sex and use drugs.


The report is available here as well as a summary report here.