Pubdate: June 17, 1999 
Source: Irish Times (Ireland)
Copyright: 1999 The Irish Times
Contact:  Letters to Editor, The Irish Times, 11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2,
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: Emmet Oliver


A grim picture of the lives of Dublin prostitutes is depicted by a
study showing that 38 per cent of female sex workers using drugs have
attempted suicide, and two-thirds of those who are mothers do not live
with their children.

The Eastern Health Board surve y also found that 25 per cent of the
sample group of prostitutes had been diagnosed with depression.

The EHB's Women's Health Project, which forms part of its AIDS
prevention programme, undertook the study among 77 women working in
prostitution in the city. Some 48 per cent of those interviewed said
they had been physically assaulted by a customer, with 65 per cent
reporting the incident to the i.Garda. A quarter said they had been
forced to have sex with a client against their will.

The survey was presented at a conference in Dublin yesterday dealing
with the provision of health and social services to prostitutes in

It showed that 66 per cent of the women had children, but 67 per cent
of these were not living with the mother. Some 35 women lived away
from their home and 21 others, while living in the family home, said
it was not a permanent arrangement.

Of the 31 per cent tested for sexually transmitted diseases, 38 per
cent tested positive. The group tested 57 per cent of the women for
HIV and 11 per cent were positive. This could be connected to the 12
per cent who said they shared equipment when intravenously injecting
drugs, the survey said.

Overall, 83 per cent said they had injected drugs in the months
leading up to the survey. The survey showed the majority of
prostitutes were aged between 20 and 27, while 18 per cent were over
the age of 30.

Mr Martin Gallagher, EHB programme manager for Health Promotion,
Mental Health, Addiction and Social Development said "sex workers
should be treated with dignity, respect and confidentiality and their
health and civil rights should be safeguarded".

The conference heard about barriers preventing women from getting out
of prostitution. Ms Frances Robinson, of the Ruhama Women's project,
which provides services to women in prostitution, said fin ding
alternatives to custodial sentences was crucial.
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