Tag Archives: Voluntary Sex Work

HIV Transmission & Voluntary Sex Work in Exchange for Housing & Food

8 Dec

In line with World AIDS Day, which was December 1, the New York Times published an excellent piece on the front page of its December 4 issue, “Poor Black and Hispanic Men are the New Face of HIV”. Link to article.

Poor Black & Hispanic Men are the New Face of HIV

Front Page of December 4, 2013 New York Times

While I do not necessarily agree that there is a “face of HIV”–HIV can affect anyone and assigning a face to the disease may actually stigmatize individuals who fall under the category of the assigned group–, I commend this piece for highlighting the numerous social factors that contribute to the spread of HIV, specifically among gay Black and Hispanic men.

Among these social determinants include the social stigma attached to homosexuality among minority men. The stigma among Black or Hispanic men who identify as homosexual often leads to isolation and abandonment from their families and friends. Removed from the financial and emotional support of family and friends, individuals are left in a disempowered and desperate state. Sex (oftentimes unprotected) is often used in exchange for a place to sleep.

Kwame said he had sex that night — with a man he met at a gay services center, where he had gone in search of emergency housing. “I wore a condom,” he said. “I did it sort of out of guilt, or pity. It’s how I was raised. I didn’t want him to think I thought less of him. Also, I needed someplace to stay.”

– “Poor Black and Hispanic Men Are the New Face of HIV”. New York Times. 4 December 2013

Earlier this year, I published a piece about the differences between “Voluntary Female Sex Work vs. Sex Trafficking of Women“. In my post, I comment on the manner and degree to which women, particularly minority women who lack financial support, often resort to the voluntary exchange of sex for food or housing.

“Sex work is the exchange of sexual services, performances, or products for material compensation”

Considering this definition, an individual who has offered sex in exchange for food, money, or a place to stay has engaged in a transaction that is deemed sex work, even if he or she does not formally identify as a sex worker…

–“Voluntary Female Sex Work Vs Sex Trafficking of Women“. Rachel Safeek. 13 October 2013.

As described in the New York Times article, economic vulnerability among men who have sex with men (MSM), coupled with abandonment from friends and loved ones, can also lead to the use of risky sexual encounters, including unprotected sex with strangers, in exchange for food or a place to stay. These exchanges contribute to the spread of HIV among financially disempowered groups, which are oftentimes minorities. Many times, we do not think about these type of sexual exchanges as actual sex workbut whether we acknowledge these encounters as instances of sex work or not, we must acknowledge that these casual exchanges of sex in return for food or housing DO exist and the resulting health risks ARE REAL.

Email me at rachel.safeek@duke.edu

-Rachel Safeek 


Know Your Status "Fight Stigma" Campaign photo

Know Your Status “Fight Stigma” Campaign photo