Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who engage in sex work.
Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use to abstinence to meet sex workers “where they’re at,” addressing conditions of use along with the use itself. Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve sex workers reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.
However, SWOP Orlando considers the following principles central to harm reduction practice.
- Accepts, for better and or worse, that licit and illicit sex work is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.
- Understands sex work as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe abuse to total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of engaging in sex work are clearly safer than others.
- Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being–not necessarily cessation of all sex work–as the criteria for successful interventions and policies.
- Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who engage in sex work and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm.
- Ensures that sex workers and those with a history of engaging in sex work routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.
- Affirms sex workers themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their sex work, and seeks to empower sex workers to share information and support each other in strategies which meet their actual conditions.
- Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with harm.
- Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with licit and illicit sex work.
Examples of Harm Reduction outreach to sex workers in Central Florida includes street outreach with the provision of condoms, feminine hygiene, syringe exchange, safer sex material and links to community resources that can provide other health related services such us Planned Parenthood, UP Orlando and Victims Service Center of Central Florida.