Amsterdam’s Uphill Battle for Sex Worker Health

The Amsterdam Center for Sex Workers. (Global Health Now/Gabriela Galvin)

In Amsterdam, a dedicated clinic is working to bridge gaps in healthcare access for the city’s sex workers. The Amsterdam Center for Sex Workers (ACS) provides free or low-cost services including STI testing, counseling, and referrals to a population that often faces barriers to care due to language, immigration status, stigma, and other factors.

Amsterdam’s Prostitution Information Center.

While the Netherlands’ legalization of prostitution in 2000 has led to some health improvements for sex workers, challenges remain. Bureaucratic hurdles can make it difficult to obtain health insurance, and sex workers in the unregulated sector or from certain ethnic communities may be harder to reach.

The unregulated sector includes sex workers from outside the European Economic Area (mostly from Eastern Europe), those working in unlicensed or illegal establisments, street-based workers, and underage workers.

Sex workers in the unregulated sector may face greater risks, including exploitation, unsafe working conditions, and barriers to accessing healthcare and other services. The ACS and other organizations aim to reach out to these individuals to provide support and resources, but it can be challenging due to the hidden nature of unregulated sex work.

Bronze statue Belle in front of the Oude Kerk by Els Rijerse. The inscription reads “Respect sex workers all over the world.” (Wikipedia/Romeo Reidl)

In an interview published in Global Health Now, ACS coordinator and sexual health nurse Marianne Craanen emphasized the importance of building trust with patients, many of whom are in “vulnerable situations.” The clinic does extensive outreach and works to ensure prompt appointments and referrals.

However, the city’s controversial proposal to move window workers from the red light district to a new “erotic center” could impact sex workers’ health and safety. “When you impact a sex worker’s income, you impact every facet of their safety, wellbeing and health,” UK sex worker Violet, who also works at the city’s Prostitution Information Center, said in the interview in Global Health Now. As Amsterdam wrestles with the future of the red light district, the ACS remains committed to supporting sex workers’ right to health.

Read the full article by Gabriela Galvin in Global Health Now.

Read this article by Polina Bachlakova in Culturico to learn more: Sex workers need better access to healthcare. Where do we begin?

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