September 8, 2018

What Sex Workers Have to Say About HIV After FOSTA/SESTA

Written by Jake Ketchum and Laura LeMoon

This past March, the House and Senate passed two trafficking bills: the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA; the House bill) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA; the Senate bill). Both bills specify that third-party content providers (such as websites with community posts like Craigslist and the now defunct Backpage) can be held liable for enabling trafficking. These bills have had reverberating effects on communities of sex workers, making it increasingly more difficult for them to use online platforms to conduct business and pushing them into the streets.

When we asked numerous sex workers what effects FOSTA/SESTA have had on their ability to maintain agency over their sexual health, the feedback was quite shocking (though not altogether surprising). How do sex workers navigate potentially dangerous conversations around sexual health after the passage of these bills? Additionally, for sex workers currently living with HIV, there is stigma on top of stigma. How do sex workers living with HIV navigate disclosure in a world that is increasingly more hostile to their profession?

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