Background: Sex workers have little organizational infrastructure to facilitate outreach or disease intervention but are a critical sentinel surveillance population for STD control. We developed a drop-in center for sex workers, the Agape Alliance, to promote self-efficacy and health.
Methods: An ongoing project, the Sex Worker Project and a university based investigator (Alexis Roth, PhD), identified desired services and hours of operation best for sex workers. In February 2013, a church agreed to provide space for drop -in services for female and transgender (M-F) sex workers. Information on the center, the Agape Alliance, was disseminated through flyers in areas with high prevalence of sex work, organizations with overlapping target populations, the Sex Worker Project and word of mouth. Services offered include hot meals, showers, condoms, hygiene products, and clothing to meet their immediate physical needs. A peer run support group allows for women to share their experiences. Clients are linked with housing, education, employment, STD/HIV testing, HIV care referrals, and medical resources through partnerships.
Results: Agape Alliance has served more than 40 sex workers. This population is 56% black and 44% white. None are Hispanic. Ages ranged from 19 to 52, average 32 + 10 years. In 6 months, 16 women were tested at the drop-in center of which 2 tested positive for chlamydia. Additional women have been directed to STD services through which they can obtain incentives. The center has also linked 2 women with detox services.
Conclusions: Involving clients in the development of a drop in center through the Sex Worker Project has increased buy-in from the community. Through empowerment, Agape Alliance may provide an early form of infrastructure to improve not only outreach and testing but also self-efficacy and safety so that these women may change their own lives and those of their peers.