GFEST Interview: ‘HIV And Sex Work’ with Thierry Schaffauser

As a part of GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2011 activities, a  role play and narrative workshop is planned on 17 November at The Cockpit Theatre. This FREE ENTRY workshop will explore the theme ‘HIV and sex work in the UK’ :Not A problem but part of the solution.

Q & A session with sex work activist and workshop leader Thierry Schaffauser:

Can you briefly explain what will happen in the ‘HIV and sex work in the UK’ workshop?

We will introduce different issues for sex workers, and male sex workers in particular, in terms of health and (HIV) prevention.

What do you aim to achieve through this workshop?

The main idea is that sex workers are not the problem but part of the solution. It will depend whether the audience will be sex workers or people who are just curious about sex work issues.

Why are sex work & HIV important issues ?

Sex workers have always been ‘scapegoated’ as disease spreaders even before HIV. We want to question the stigma attached to sex work and its impact on our health and well being.

You had a ‘Sex Worker Open University’ event recently. What were the learnings and why people should be engaged with Sex workers issues?

The Sex Worker Open University was a great event to share our experience, skills and knowledge among ourselves. It was a safe space where we could talk about our working conditions and personal life. Many sex workers feel isolated so we try to create spaces where we can address our own issues without any judgmental approach that we usually experience from the professional “rescue industry”.

How do you best tackle the issues and any stigma around sex work?

Interestingly, male sex workers can be glamorized in the gay community, but often for commercial reasons because sex sells. In practice, many gay people see us as pretty idiots who can’t get a proper job because we are lazy, junkies or just too stupid. We need to challenge these misconceptions and show that anyone can be a sex worker at one moment of his/her life. Having a coming out strategy can help so people realise who we are but it’s not an easy option for most sex workers who may face strong discrimination, lose their day job, flat, family, friends, etc.

What are the  future plans for your work?

We are involved in the GMB trade union to try to organise our industry. We also want to build our community by creating social events and safe spaces where to gather. We have a project to create a workers cooperative but this requires a lot of work and means that we don’t have yet.

Any single wish?

We wish that sex work was entirely decriminalised and that we had the same labour rights as any other worker. Sex work can be a very hard job emotionally and that’s why we need better protection.

 Thank you Thierry and best wishes from GFEST team.

For more information on GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2011 please contact: Subodh Rathod, Wise Thoughts / GFEST – Gaywise FESTival
Tel: 020 8889 9555 /