There is a broad spectrum of people who work in the sex industry across the UK. This includes people of all genders, age, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, health and socio economic-status. In line with the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV guidelines, we define ‘sex worker’ as someone who has capacity and is consensually working in the sex industry, free from threat or coercion.
We recognise that not everyone working in the sex industry will identify as a sex worker, for example they may identify as an escort or a companion. Therefore, we recognise that people working in the sex industry will have a broad range of needs and we tailor messaging in order to provide information and support that is inclusive and meets the needs of individuals.
For consistency, we use the terminology of ‘sex worker’ throughout.
We offer tailored services in a non-judgmental setting where people can get support, advice and clinical services including sexual health screening and HIV tests. We ensure that we follow up-to-date guidance from the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, including any specific guidelines for sex workers.
We work with all sex workers no matter their gender, sexual orientation or whether they are living with a disability. We work with migrant sex workers and adults of all ages including student sex workers. We support sex workers who work in digital spaces and do not discriminate by the type of sex work undertaken.
We support the decriminalisation of sex work
We believe that sex work in the UK should be decriminalised. We support the removal of punitive laws and practices that lead to the criminalisation or punishment of activities relating to the buying or selling of consensual sex between adults.
We do not support the 'Nordic model’ which criminalises the clients of sex workers and many of the means through which sex workers market their work. We believe that this would in effect criminalise sex workers by proxy, shifts demand to less safe spaces and increases the threat of violence and other harms as clients would be forced underground, making it more difficult for sex workers to manage risk, including risk of HIV and poor sexual health.
The view of HIV and sexual health charities, both domestic and global, is clear. There is robust international evidence that punitive legal and social environments are key determinants in increasing the risk of HIV and poor sexual health. UNAIDS states that ‘such environments have been shown to limit the availability, access and uptake of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for sex workers and their clients.’
We do not accept funding to provide exiting services
We advocate approaches that uphold the rights of sex workers and that empower and enable sex workers to work safely with maximum agency. We encourage individuals to make healthier choices for themselves; either while sex working or when wishing to leave the sex industry. We support the rights of individuals to work safely, to have confidence to set boundaries in their work and, if they want to, exit the profession.
We acknowledge that sex work is often driven by financial need and that the increase in sex workers in recent years is aligned with an increase in poverty, homelessness and debt.
Exiting the sex industry is a sex worker’s personal choice. There are a diversity of experiences and reasons for working in the sex industry. Where individuals who wish to leave sex work need additional help we will support them. However, a need for 'exiting' will never be assumed or be the focus of service delivery and individual choice will be central to our work.
We support evidence-based efforts to end trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable individuals.
We have experience in working with trafficked people. We have found that sex workers themselves share our concern about those who are exploited or trafficked and have expressed a desire to support these individuals.
The majority of people who we encounter have chosen to work as sex workers or remain as sex workers.
Human trafficking, cases of sexual and gender based violence and buying sexual services from a person under 18 years of age are criminal offences and entirely unacceptable; they should be vigorously investigated and prosecuted through the legal system.
Our relationship with the police
The current legislation around sex work means that the police are often not a trusted partner for sex workers. Fear of consequences and the reality of stigma that is attached to sex work create barriers and prevent people from engaging in services that could help them.
While we work with the police and the prison system across a number of issues relating to sexual health and combating HIV stigma, we will not work with police where this jeopardises the safety and wellbeing of sex workers. Our involvement with the police is to support sex workers, for instance by educating police on the realities of sex work, including the impact of legislation on sex workers, in particular their wellbeing and safety.
We do not join raids on sex working venues, including where raids are used as justification to target migrant sex workers.
We protect the confidentiality of all our service users and will only share information with the police if we are legally required to do so.
We believe co-production is key
Sex workers should be at the centre of decisions that impact them. Any change to legislation and policy affecting sex workers must meaningfully involve individuals in the sex industry to ensure that policy change is informed by lived experience.
We involve sex workers in the design of all of our services that aim to support people in the sex industry, ensuring that these services are tailored to the support that is needed.