Coronovirus and sexwork

Update from the government - the 4th of June.  

As from the 8th of June sexwork is no longer prohibited. 

What are the safety measures elaborated by the government?

Prostitution/sexwork -Protocol* June 8th 2020

* This protocol has been validated by GEES scientists and by Denis Ducarme, Federal minister of Small Businesses, Self-employment, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Agriculture and Social Integration, in charge of Larger Towns

Authors:

  • asbl Alias, UTSOPI, espace P…, entre2 Wallonie, Icar Wallonie ;
  • Violett, asbl Ghapro and asbl Pasop ; 
  • Fédération des services sociaux ;
  • Cabinet Ducarme ;
  • Consulent prostitutiebeleid en jurist - stad Antwerpen ;
  • Commune de Schaerbeek – intervenante à titre indépendant ;
  • Pierre Van Damme (epidemiologist UA).

Beside the general guidelines given by the FPS public health, specific guidelines for sexworkers, clients and tenants can be followed.

Cleaning

Prostitution spaces – i.e. door latches, railings and interfaces – are cleaned and disinfected with disinfectant product  and disposable cloths after each client. Regular ventilation of the places is done.

Clients and sexworkers wash their hands and faces before and after each service, and after handling money. When possible, a shower will be taken by both before the service. After oral sex, faces and body parts involved are washed with water and soap. Female intimate zones will however only be washed with water (no soap) to avoid other infections.

Use of proper equipment

Given the nature of sexual services, the physical distancing measure of 1.5m cannot be respected. When entering a sex service place, hands must be washed with water and soap or rubbed with alcoholic gel. A disposable or textile mask (washed at 60°) must be worn by both sexworkers and clients (and changed by the sexworker after each client), except during oral sex. In that case, the use of a condom or dental dam is recommended.

Gloves could be used but hand hygiene should primarily rely on regular hand washing and/or disinfection.

Concerning mattress coverage, one can either change the bedding systematically (washed at 60°) or use polyurethane (Similar to those used in hospital services. They can be easily washed with a sponge and disinfecting gel) fitted sheets (disinfected after each service).

No mouth-to-mouth contact

All saliva contact, kissing and face to face sexual positions must be avoided. Genital secretions are not covid infectious but sexual organs touched by hand may carry the virus (so proper and systematic hand hygiene is always warranted).

In case of outdoor prostitution

In case of no access to a water point, disinfecting gel/spray/wipes as well as masks will be used. The following of above mentioned advice (c) is of course encouraged.

Clear information and communication

Protocol posters for clients and sexworkers will be displayed in all sexwork spaces and flyers will be distributed. Where applicable, the manager of sexwork places will be responsible for informing and insuring clients and sexworkers follow the above guidelines. 

Social and medical workers can inform and train sexworkers about these guidelines and proper equipment use.

Sex advertising websites should add a banner with information for sexworkers and clients in order to reach escorts and private sexworkers.

About testing

Systematic and regular covid-testing of asymptomatic sexworkers is not recommended for following reasons: (1) there is a certain proportion of false negatives; (2) negative results could give a false sense of security and lead to lower follow-up of protocols or equipment use. A “risk reduction”/information and awareness approach is privileged, as the effect on health and compliance with preventive measures for avoiding the spreading of the virus is expected to be higher.

Sexworkers should of course be tested whenever they have symptoms, according to the existing guidelines.

Preliminary questionnaire
Sexworkers are encouraged to condition the service to the state of health of their clients (absence of covid-symptoms), which could be assessed through a short questionnaire.

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