Sex workers

People who sell and exchange sex are a priority population for HIV and other STI prevention.

In Australia, even though sex workers experience stigma, the health outcomes for sex workers have been considerably improved through decades of advocacy, the decriminalisation of sex work in some states and the availability of public health services. Research in Australia has found that there are generally high rates of condom use among women who sell sex, resulting in low rates of infection.

Sex work can involve a large and diverse number of sexual partners and this means that sex workers have unique health needs and concerns. At the Kirby Institute, we produce surveillance reports on the sexual health of sex workers who attend publically-funded sexual health clinics in NSW. We also work closely with community groups that represent sex workers on research that examines the effect of prostitution laws on the health and welfare of sex workers.

Internationally, people who sell sex face far worse conditions in relation to their health. In many countries, sex work is illegal, is practiced in unsafe conditions and is complicated by barriers to negotiating condom use. We conduct research in Cambodia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to design, deliver and evaluate culturally appropriate interventions to protect and promote the health of sex workers.

Our programs that work in this area


Sex workers researchers     Sex workers projects