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Prostitutes in Ukraine face even greater health risks after war

When the air-raid warning sirens fell silent, Olena left the shelter and walked back to the sidewalk, waiting for customers looking for sex. As the Russian bombs fell, social workers noticed a reduction in HIV treatments. The people who needed them disappeared from the streets.

When soldiers approached Tetiana, usually armed, they often asked for discounts that she didn’t have the heart to deny. “The soldiers would say, ‘Tania, come for an hour,’” she says, but then ask for more time. “I end up going and entertaining them all night for the same money.”

The Russian invasion affected all cities, industries and professionals in all sectors in Ukraine, killing thousands of civilians and forcing millions more to flee their homes. People who sell sex, an especially vulnerable group even in peacetime, are at even greater risk of poverty, coercion and ill health, say sex workers and social workers.

And that situation has consequences in Ukraine’s fight to stop the spread of HIV.

In the country, one of Europe’s biggest pre-war sex tourism destinations, prostitution is illegal but widely tolerated. According to the government-run Public Health Center of Ukraine, the sex industry was large, involving an estimated 53,000 professionals.

Read more in Folha de S. Paulo

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