Send to

Choose Destination
Sex Res Social Policy. 2019;16(3):329-341. doi: 10.1007/s13178-018-0339-8. Epub 2018 May 21.

Canadian Sex Workers Weigh the Costs and Benefits of Disclosing Their Occupational Status to Health Providers.

Author information

1Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research and Department of Sociology, University of Victoria, 2300 McKenzie Ave., Victoria, BC V8N 5M8 Canada.
2Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC Canada.
3Department of Sociology, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC Canada.


Prostitution stigma has been shown to negatively affect the work, personal lives, and health of sex workers. Research also shows that sex workers have much higher unmet health care needs than the general population. Less is known about how stigma obstructs their health-seeking behaviors. For our thematic analysis, we explored Canadian sex workers' accounts (N = 218) of accessing health care services for work-related health concerns. Results show that participants had mixed feelings about revealing their work status in health care encounters. Those who decided not to disclose were fearful of negative treatment or expressed confidentiality concerns or lack of relevancy. Those who divulged their occupational status to a health provider mainly described benefits, including nonjudgment, relationship building, and comprehensive care, while a minority experienced costs that included judgment, stigma, and inappropriate health care. Overall, health professionals in Canada appear to be doing a good job relating to sex workers who come forward for care. There is still a need for some providers to learn how to better converse with, diagnose, and care for people in sex work jobs that take into account the heavy costs associated with prostitution stigma.


Agency; Disclosure; Health care encounters; Sex work; Stigma; Unmet health care needs

Conflict of interest statement

Competing InterestsThe authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center