Syphilis Elimination in Robeson County: Challenges of Addressing the Problem among Sex Workers.

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Packer, Melissa, April Oxendine, and Karen Woodell. "Syphilis Elimination in Robeson County: Challenges of Addressing the Problem among Sex Workers." North Carolina medical journal 67.5 (2006): 381-83.


This article appears in the Commentary section of this special issue entitled "Sexually transmitted diseases: the unspoken epidemic." The authors discuss challenges faced in the first two years of the My Fair Lady Project, a three-year effort for which the Robeson County Health department received funding from the North Carolina HIV/STD Prevention and Care Branch. The innovative, widely publicized project would recruit commercial sex workers, rehabilitate them extensively, and then reintroduce them into their former environment, where they would educate their former peers in behaviors that would reduce the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.


Another issue with the project involved its relationship to Palmer Prevention. The project coordinators, concerned about the prospect of the recruits' substance abuse relapse, chose to have the peer educator recruits report daily to Palmer Prevention, rather than to the Robeson County Health Department. This option also seemed preferable in terms of confidentiality as well as media and public attention to the project. When the recruits' work attendance and job performance became problematic, Palmer Prevention asked the Health Department to assume supervision of them.

The authors are optimistic about the project's Advisory Council, which has grown appreciably and includes members involved in law enforcement, the community at large, substance abuse counseling, faith-based groups, and the Lumbee tribal government. The authors are concerned that the remaining grant funds are inadequate for clinical substance abuse counseling for the two new peer educator recruits, who have recently been crack cocaine users. The authors also enumerate concerns that funding of the project was not sufficient for full implementation. In addition, more funding would have made it possible to address the broader range of problems facing commercial sex workers, including child care, housing, development of employment skills, health care, mental health services, and care for domestic violence-related injuries.

The authors conclude, "Project shortfalls should not be viewed as failures; rather, they should guide the course for those seeking to reduce the occurrence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases through decreasing the number of commercial sex workers" (p. 383).

See also:
Wilkins, Tim. "Grant aims to give two prostitutes jobs with Health Department." Robesonian Monday, August 9, 2004.

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