Fiji's approach to sex work could be exposing the Pacific nation to a rapid spread of HIV/AIDS, with devastating economic and social consequences, a new AusAID-funded study has found.

Risky Business: Sex Work and HIV Prevention in Fiji is the first report to scientifically document the realities of Fijian sex workers' lives and the implications for HIV prevention. The study was carried out by the International HIV Research Group from UNSW's School of Public Health and Community Medicine in conjunction with the Pacific STI and HIV Research Centre of the Fiji School of Medicine.

Fiji's new Crimes Decree, which overhauls the Penal Code, is likely to have a negative impact on sex workers and HIV prevention work, with worrying repercussions for Fiji's escalating HIV epidemic, report authors Ms Karen McMillan and Associate Professor Heather Worth argue.

"As the law and police crack-downs are used to attempt to eradicate sex work, the conditions under which sex is sold will change," the authors warn.

"Rather than prevent sex work occurring, these changes will drive sex work underground, and will be detrimental to efforts to reduce HIV transmission risk."

The report also champions the need to foster an environment that assists sex workers to protect themselves and their clients, provide funding and other support for HIV peer education and condom distribution, and address the causes of female poverty.

For more information about the report go to the SPHCM website.

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