Cameron Cox, CEO of the Sex Workers Outreach Project.
Cameron Cox, CEO of the Sex Workers Outreach Project. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Rural sex workers feel lonely and isolated

RURAL sex workers face more discrimination than their city counterparts, according to a non-profit outreach organisation visiting the region today.

Friday and Saturday, Sex Workers Outreach Project staff will visit Ballina and Lismore to help sex workers who may be working in isolation in rural environments.

Chief executive Cameron Cox said a team of outreach staff aims to help sex workers who may be experiencing loneliness and discrimination.

 

Rural sex work outreach on the Northern Rivers.
Rural sex work outreach on the Northern Rivers. Contributed

"The people who come to the area are sex workers themselves, so they can talk on the same level, they understand the lives of a sex worker through their own unique experience," Mr Cox said.

"We discuss health and work to support sex workers in a wide range of areas such as education, housing and discrimination.

"The main negative in a rural area is the discrimination facing sex workers and the stigma associated with sex work.

"In a city of 4.7million can be relatively anonymous and people mind their own business.

"When you work in a small rural town and everyone knows everyone it can be quite difficult."

Rural sex workers benefit from peer education and industry support.

 

Rural sex work outreach on the Northern Rivers.
Rural sex work outreach on the Northern Rivers. Contributed

"Sex working can be quite isolating, especially if you're a private worker, you're often working by yourself, you won't have told your friends, your parents and maybe even your partner," Mr Cox said.

"So imagine you've had a really crappy bad day and you want to complain to your partner or friend. Often sex workers can't do that.

"We find out about their lives, talk about our experiences, and are able to enhance the pool of sex worker knowledge."

Mr Cox moved to clarify public perceptions of Sexually Transmitted Infections among sex workers.

"Sex workers have lower rates of STIs than non sex workers - because they have much higher rates of using barrier protection.

"Sexual workers are tested a lot more regularly.

"They are 60-times more likely to have had a recent check, with an STI check once every three months.

"Tests could be years apart for non-sex workers.

 

Rural sex work outreach on the Northern Rivers.
Rural sex work outreach on the Northern Rivers. Contributed

"In Ballina, Lismore and Tweed there are NSW Health sexual health clinics and they have very, very sex worker friendly environments.

"You should expect a protected service and not pressure for unprotected services."

Sex Workers Outreach Project is a non-profit organisation with bi-partisan support and funded by the NSW Ministry of Health for 25 years.

Information about Northern Rivers sexual health clinics, STIs and free and confidential testing:

http://nnswlhd.health.nsw.gov.au/about/north-coast-public-health/hiv-related-programs-harp/sexual-health/



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