Many sex workers in Switzerland still go unprotected

About one-fifth of sex workers in Switzerland said they would skip condom use if they trust their customer Keystone and agencies/dos

Sex workers in Switzerland know about safe sex, yet many skip condoms for the sake of business. This is according to a new study by the University of Lausanne that surveyed nearly 600 sex workers about the profession.

Nine of every 10 who were interviewed – of which 92% were women – said they were aware that a condom could minimize the risk of transmitting HIV. Eight of every 10 said they were also aware that a physically healthy client could still carry the disease. Yet, for various reasons, they don’t always use protection.

For example, 34% of the 579 respondents said they have had unprotected sex because the customer paid more for that service. Nearly 23% of the respondents said they had done so because the client simply didn’t want to wear a condom. Another 21.5% said they would skip the condom if they trusted the customer.

The authors of the report speculated that the high competition for clients in Switzerland, along with the precarious economic and social conditions of many sex workers despite prostitution’s legality in Switzerland, could explain the decision to take extra risks, regardless of the motivation. 

However, more than 30% said that over the past year a client had deliberately removed the condom during sex – without asking for consent. They said it was equally common for a condom to slide off or break.

The Federal Office of Public Health commissioned the study by the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine in Lausanne to help monitor HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, known as STDs, in Switzerland.

The survey also examined the backgrounds of sex workers in Switzerland and why they entered the profession. More than half said they did so to help family; one-fourth said they were paying off debts.

Just 8% of those surveyed held a Swiss passport, with the biggest proportion coming from Eastern Europe. They reported seeing up to two clients a day on average.

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