Risk of Criminalization among Sex Workers Carrying Condoms

People who engage in sex work (PESW) are particularly vulnerable to criminalization even when seeking to report experiencing victimization. The health and safety of those engaged in sex work is further jeopardized as condoms have been historically used as evidence of sex work. California Senate Bill (SB) 233, taking effect on January 1, 2020, was meant to ensure that condoms cannot be used as probable cause for arrest nor used as evidence to prosecute a person for sex work. Nearly two years after its passage, we conducted interviews with twenty-five diverse individuals with experience engaging in sex work in Los Angeles County, a known locus for enforcement of a prior HIV felony solicitation. We sought to explore respondents’ interactions with law enforcement, their knowledge, beliefs, and experiences with the use of condoms as evidence of sex work, and their beliefs about criminalization risk and how that might impact condom possession and condom use in the context of their work.


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