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Sex Workers' Condoms Used as Smoking Gun by LAPD, Spurring Unsafe Encounters?

Use a condom, go to jail?

Not exactly. But the group Human Rights Watch says police in L.A. are using prostitution suspects' possession of condoms as evidence that they were indeed allegedly working the streets. On top of that, the org argued that cops in L.A. were alleged to have demanded sex in exchange for dropping an arrest. (Hope they had condoms).

A new report "Sex Workers at Risk: Condoms as Evidence of Prostitution in Four US Cities," says authorities' reliance on condom possession to aid in prosecutions can make prostitutes reluctant to carry prophylactics. And that would be bad for their health.

Released last week, a summary of the report says:

The practice makes sex workers and transgender women reluctant to carry condoms for fear of arrest, causes them to engage in sex without protection, and puts them at risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Megan McLemore, senior health researcher at Human Rights Watch, said:

One woman in Los Angeles told us she was afraid to carry condoms with her and sometimes had to use a plastic bag instead of a condom with clients to try to protect herself from HIV.

The organization interviewed more than 200 current and former sex workers in L.A., New York, Washington, DC, and San Francisco. The report makes this allegation:

In New York and Los Angeles, women reported that some police had demanded sex in exchange for dropping charges.

The report suggests that the fear of being caught holding condoms could be behind higher numbers of HIV infections in those big cities, particularly among the transgender population and other sex workers.

McLemore said:

These cities gave out 50 million condoms last year. But the police are taking them out of the hands of those who need them the most.

What does the organization want? It calls on "local, state, and federal leadership to stop the use of condoms as evidence of prostitution."

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