Sex workers as educators: networking HIV prevention strategies

Background: This study was initiated by PEERS Victoria Resources Society as an opportunity to increase the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services for sex workers in the Victoria metropolitan area. The team first summarized the scholarly literature on the topic of HIV/AIDS, other risk factors including substance use and sex work, as well as analyze relevant data on sex workers, clients, intimate partners and managers from a recently completed team grant research project on health and safety in the Canadian sex industry. The research summary s subsequently supported the piloting of a peer-based knowledge exchange initiative led by sex workers which targeted their personal and workplace networks. The project  additionally launched a training day for service providers. The training event  combined curriculum on emerging trends in research evidence linked to sexual and general health and violence and substance use harm reduction, as well as innovations in peer-based leadership.

Progress to date: The initial program evaluation showed that the intervention fostered community mobilization and critical consciousness among sex workers, and increased their agency in their work and personal networks. The program subsequently ran a second time in Victoria in 2018, supported by funding from Island Health. It is currently running a third time in Victoria, with funding support from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The program is also being replicated in Sudbury, Ontario and Chisinau, Republic of Moldova. The data from the  program evaluation have been analyzed and published in a CISUR bulletin and peer reviewed articles. 


  • Dr. Cecilia Benoit (Nominated PI)
  • Reading, C. (PI)
  • Dr. Mikael Jansson (Co-I)
  • Atchison, C. (Co-I)
  • Shumka, Leah (Co-I)
  • Dr. Rachel Phillips (Principal Knowledge User)
  • Potvin, N. (Knowledge User)
  • Clouthier, D. (Knowledge User)
  • Salvati, S. (Knowledge User)
  • Belle-Isle, Lynne (Knowledge User)