Sex work has been dramatically affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many sex workers may be facing the difficult decision between maintaining an income and protecting their health, a risk exacerbated by the explicit exclusion of sex workers from state-sponsored financial aid programs. Research is needed to define the needs of sex workers in the face of Covid-19, examine barriers to support programs, and identify avenues for supporting their health and well-being during and after the pandemic. We propose to conduct a sequential, mixed-methods research study comprising (i) in-depth interviews with active sex workers, (ii) textual analysis of online sex work activity, and (iii) iterative intervention development with stakeholders representing sex work communities. This project will build upon seminal theories of knowledge formation and dissemination that have been pivotal in supporting the health of sex workers in relation to HIV. Lessons from the HIV epidemic underscore the necessity of partnerships between social and medical research, but also partnerships between scientists and vulnerable communities to facilitate the design and implementation of effective prevention and support strategies. The proposed project will produce tangible recommendations to guide planning for efforts to support sex workers in the face of Covid-19 through intervention development, service delivery, and policy. This project will also advance understandings of the theoretical and practical roles that community-based social inquiry can play alongside medical research to improve the health and well-being of sex workers and other populations significantly impacted by Covid-19.
Associate Research Scientist, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Associate Research Scientist, Columbia University