Report outlines changing face of sex worker


SEX WORKERS in Dublin are becoming less visible because of the use of the internet and mobile phones, a study has found. And almost 80 per cent of drug-using sex workers who took part in the study had Hepatitis C.

Drug Use, Sex Work and the Risk Environment in Dublin, produced by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, examined the experiences of 35 drug users who are or had been involved in the sex industry. The average age of the 31 women and four men surveyed was 29. Some 88 per cent were on methadone and other drugs including heroin and benzodiazepines. And 78 per cent had Hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus which affects the liver. A fifth were HIV positive.

Over 60 per cent were homeless and all had experienced physical and sexual assault at some stage in their work. Participants came from “marginalised communities”, the study found, and moved continually through drug and alcohol services, homeless hostels, the judicial system and other social agencies.

On average, they began drug use at the age of 13. They chiefly became involved in the sex industry to solve money problems associated with drugs and many were introduced to it by a friend.

The majority of the women interviewed were mothers who, the report said, struggled to balance their desire to be good mothers with sourcing money for their children and their drug habit.

The study involved interviews with social and health professionals. They said sex work was becoming less visible in Dublin because many workers were using mobile phones and the internet to contact clients. The regeneration of the city had disrupted street sex market locations.

Researcher Dr Teresa Whitaker said a theme to emerge from the field work was that drug-using sex workers are vulnerable people with complex and multiple needs.