Table 4:

Participant-recommended practices to improve service delivery

Recommended practiceIllustrative quote
Adopt a nonjudgmental approach to working with sex workersSo it’s just really about education and … not judging a book by its cover, and I think that’ll make the girls feel a lot more open. … If they know … there’s so many different reasons I could be doing it [sex work], and they’re not going to judge me, they’re just going to help me. (Focus group 1)
Become familiar with the social realities of sex workWhat I would like to see from a medical institutional framework or standpoint would be an understanding of the social context of sex work. So I would like to see an institution come out and say, “We understand that sex workers want decriminalization, that sex workers deserve rights, and labour rights, and human rights, that are lacking at this time.” I would like to see an explicit kind of support of that from an institution that I go to. (Interview 3)
Make your work place accessible for sex workers[A local sexual health clinic] is great but is hard to get to if I’m not downtown.
[Local public health] clinics don’t have the greatest times and are often full. (Survey respondent)
Provide appropriate servicesA sexual health clinic insisted I must be having unprotected sex when I stated I was not, and tried to convince me to leave the industry because I seemed tired and stressed (I’m a student, of course I seem tired and stressed). (Survey respondent)
Publicly voice your position on sex workI want to know from the get-go … that they [the doctor] were sex positive and they were sex work positive. … I don’t need someone that doesn’t get it or that’s really conservative in their mindset. (Interview 2)
Recruit staff and volunteers with sex work experienceSurvey question: What are your sources of strength and resilience?
Respondent: Being around others working in this industry.
Understand the diversity of sex work experiencesKnowing that people in this industry are literally from all walks of life. Some girls are doing it for survival. Some girls are doing it to get through school. Some girls are doing it because they’re into sex. … I have one girl that I used to work with and her dad worked in the parliament buildings. … She didn’t need to be working, she just loved to work. That was her thing. And she went to [university], and it was just her extra money … that’s what she liked to do, and there was nothing wrong with that. So just knowing that … we’re not all … damaged, and because I think a lot of people think, “Oh my gosh, if I tell the doctor this, they’re going to think I have daddy issues, or I’ve been — something’s happened to me, traumatic, that this is why I’m here.” It’s not always like that. … You could just be going through school, and it’s [income from sex work] helpful. (Focus group 1)