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Sex work and the public health impacts of the 2010 Olympic Games
  1. Kathleen N Deering1,2,
  2. Jill Chettiar2,
  3. Keith Chan2,
  4. Matthew Taylor3,
  5. Julio SG Montaner1,2,
  6. Kate Shannon1,2,4
  1. 1Division of AIDS, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  2. 2B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  3. 3HUSTLE, PEERS Vancouver Resource Society, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  4. 4School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kate Shannon, Assistant Professor, Division of AIDS, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia; Director, Gender and Sexual Health Initiative, St. Paul's Hospital, 608-1081 Burrard Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, V6Z 1Y6; gshi{at}


Objectives The authors examined the impact of exposure to the 2010 Winter Olympics time period on outcomes measuring disruption of local sex work environments in Vancouver, Canada.

Methods The authors conducted a before-and-after study, using multivariable logistic regression, to assess the relationship between exposure to the Olympics period (19 January–14 March 2010) versus the post-Olympics period (1 April–1 July 2010) and outcomes.

Results This study included 207 youth (14+ years) and adult sex workers (SWs) (Olympics: n=107; post-Olympics: n=100). SWs in the two periods were statistically similar, with an overall median age of 33 years (IQR: 28–40), and 106 (51.2%) of indigenous ancestry or ethnic minority. In separate multivariable logistic regression models, the Olympics period remained statistically significantly associated with perceived heightened police harassment of SWs without arrest (adjusted ORs (AOR): 3.95, 95% CIs 1.92 to 8.14), decreased availability of clients (AOR: 1.97, 95% CIs 1.11 to 3.48) and increased difficulty meeting clients due to road closures/construction (AOR: 7.68, 95% CIs 2.46 to 23.98). There were no significantly increased odds in perceived reports of new (0.999), youth (0.536) or trafficked SWs (zero reports) in the Olympic period.

Conclusions To reduce potential adverse public health impacts of enhanced police harassment and displacement of local sex work markets, results suggest that evidence-based public health strategies need to be adopted for host cities of future events (eg, the London 2012 Olympic Games), such as the removal of criminal sanctions targeting sex work and the piloting and rigorous evaluation of safer indoor work spaces.

  • Sex work
  • large-scale sports events
  • Olympics
  • HIV
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • trafficking
  • risk behaviours
  • women's issues
  • transmission
  • sexual behaviour
  • AIDS
  • HIV women
  • India
  • epidemiology
  • street youth
  • sexual practices

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  • Funding The funding agencies played no role in the analyses and the paper does not necessarily reflect the position of the funding agencies. This research was funded by a CIHR (HHP-98835) and NIH operating grants (1R01DA028648-01A1). KND is supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Postdoctoral Research Award (Bisby Award) and a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) Postdoctoral Research Award; JSGM is supported by the Ministry of Health, from the Province of British Columbia; through a Knowledge Translation Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR); and through an Avant-Garde Award (No 1DP1DA026182-01) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, at the US National Institutes of Health. KS is supported by NIH (1R01DA028648-01A1), a CIHR New Investigator Award and Peter Lougheed Award, and a MSFHR Scholar Award.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Approval provided by theProvidence Health Care/University of British Columbia Research Ethics Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.