Discussing Links Between Commercial Sex Work, HIV Transmission

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Health officials from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Baltimore Health Departmentplan to hold the first in a series of meetings this month to discussthe links between commercial sex work and HIV transmission in an effortto curb the spread of the disease in the Baltimore area, the Baltimore Sun reports (Bor, Baltimore Sun, 11/9).

According to a two-part series published this week in the Sun,the association between sex work and HIV transmission is a reason whythe Baltimore area has the second-highest rate of new AIDS cases in thecountry after Miami. Studies have found that among sex workers whotrade sex for drugs, HIV infection rates are as high as 30%.

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Inan effort to reach the population, a pilot program will be launchedthat twice weekly will send a van with needle-exchange, testing andoutreach services to locations known for commercial sex work, JoshuaSharfstein, the city's health commissioner, recently said. The cityaims to start the program in January 2008. The city health departmentalso aims to determine which neighborhoods and risk groups are beingneglected by the city's efforts to curb HIV/AIDS. According toSharfstein, the city has lacked a comprehensive prevention strategy tofight HIV, in part because the services performed by a number oforganizations receiving public funds have not been assessed (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/6).

Atthe upcoming meeting, officials plan to discuss how to collect betterdata on commercial sex work, the role of commercial sex work in thetransmission of HIV and whether enough is being done to reach thepopulation, Sharfstein said. Claudia Gray, prevention chief at the Maryland AIDS Administration,said the first meeting will bring together four or five communityorganizations serving sex workers. She added that officials will askleaders of the groups about the services they provide and what theyperceive to be their greatest needs.

The effort is "an exciting and outstanding initiative," Sidney Ford, director of Baltimore-based You Are Never Alone,said, adding, "There is a lot of promise in any collaboration betweenthe city, state and private providers to focus attention on this muchneglected issue" (Baltimore Sun, 11/9).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report ispublished for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation.

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