The Sex Worker Story
Thank you for your contribution to HIV disclosure to sex partners.
As sex workers in Canada and all of their advocates celebrate “the glorious Bedford decision” which finally recognized sex workers’ dignity, value and human rights, I wanted to share my experiences with sex workers and HIV transmission.
For many years I believed I had indirectly contracted HIV through a sex worker. This was the assumption and story that was being told. I knew nothing about HIV or sex workers and for the longest time the story made sense, based on senseless information. Even when I was told directly from a medical professional that this was most likely not how I contracted the virus, I clung to the explanation that seemingly made the most sense at the time. Fortunately after many years and a lot of learning I realized this was not how I contracted HIV.
I spoke to a sex worker a while ago who complained how they were conveniently blamed for many things, including the transmission of HIV. They went on to explain the injustice in this and ended the conversation by saying – “This is just one of our battles. One I am sure nobody cares about because believing this HIV myth suits the needs of some people”. She felt as though she had no voice and that this was just one more social problem sex workers were forced to take responsibility for.
Shortly after the conversation I went on a date with a man who was HIV positive. Although I did not make inquiries he insisted on emphasizing how he contracted HIV from a “low class sex worker”. Not a high class or middle class sex worker, “a low class sex worker”. While listening to his story my bullshit meter went into overdrive as I was not aware that HIV discriminated on class lines. I was also acutely aware by then of how the “sex worker” story was used as a way of explaining one’s HIV status.
We are free to tell our stories in whatever manner which feels comfortable for us. However, when it is at the expense of a group that is already being criminalized, marginalized and deemed outcasts in society, then it is time to re-consider the story. After all, we, as people living with HIV, share similar circumstances with sex workers and should be collaborating, not reinforcing struggles which are not so different from our own. Let’s be mindful of who we are shifting the burden on to when we tell our stories.