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Spanish sex workers forced to carry health check cards

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7290.814/a (Published 07 April 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:814
  1. Paul Rigg
  1. Madrid

    All female sex workers employed by a chain of sex clubs in Spain will have to carry medical cards in future, after a drive to encourage the women to have regular checks for sexually transmitted diseases.

    Clients will be able to access the details on the card by swiping it through an electronic reader. The scheme was condemned by a British AIDS specialist, who thought the scheme unbalanced and ineffective.

    In four months Anela, the National Association of Sex Clubs, has brought together more than 100 club managers from throughout Spain with the aim of improving their image by assuring that each woman has had regular health checks.

    Each of the women in every member club will carry a medical card that contains her name, passport number, sex club details, location, and health tests undertaken (with dates). If more than 40 days pass without an analysis the card will read: “The bearer has exhausted the time considered prudent for the monitoring and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.”

    To join Anela, club owners have to pay £1500 ($2100) to register plus £150 a month. In return they will receive a “seal of quality,” which they can display in their club.

    Club owners will also be required to have a contract with a doctor, who will make weekly “or at least monthly” checks so that the sex workers can carry updated information. Any potential client has the right to ask for the card's contents to be displayed on a screen and for a certificate to be issued that he can then take home.

    Members of Anela have to sign a contract that acknowledges that there is a particular need in their profession for sexually transmitted diseases to be monitored and controlled to avoid their spread.

    A database will be created in Anela's “centre for the monitoring and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.” These data will be confidential and only for the use of medical staff for scientific analysis.

    “We are doing this for the girls, but even more for the clients,” said José Luis Roberto, Anela's lawyer.

    Professor Michael Adler from the department of sexually transmitted diseases at the Royal Free and University College Medical School said: “This appears to be a very unbalanced and one sided approach to the control of sexually transmitted infections in that it does not require the same information and testing from the clients.

    “A clean bill of health for the prostitutes is only as good as the last screening episode, with infection quite easily occurring between testing episodes.


    Embedded Image

    A prostitute at work in Madrid

    (Credit: BETTY PRESS/PANOS PICTURES)

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