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Fri, May 26, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Sex workers call for AIDS to be seen as job hazard

RISKY BUSINESS A recent report that a legal prostitute in Keelung contracted HIV has prompted rights groups to call for government compensation in such cases

By Irene Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

AIDS is expected to be recognized as an occupational hazard among licensed prostitutes, an official of the Council of Labor Affairs said yesterday.

In view of last week's reports that a licensed prostitute in Keelung City had been infected with the virus that causes AIDS, legal prostitutes and labor groups visited the council yesterday to request that the deadly disease be legally recognized as an occupational hazard for sex workers.

Kuo Chi-jen (郭吉仁), vice chairman of the council, agreed to the request in principle, saying he understood the nature of prostitution to be a business that places sex workers at great risk of contracting HIV.

Kuo said the sex trade has long been surrounded with moral controversy. However, legally licensed sex workers should be entitled to compensation for occupational hazards as much as workers of other occupations, he said.

He suggested that is was reasonable to foresee the time when AIDS will be recognized as a job-related hazard for sex workers. The deadly disease has been designated as an occupational hazard for medical workers since 1996.

Health authorities in Keelung City confirmed last week that a 45-year-old prostitute was found to have been infected with HIV. Licensed prostitutes are required to take blood tests every three months.

In view of the reports, a group of activists for sex workers' rights and labor rights have begun a lobbying campaign to persuade related authorities to become more involved with the issue.

Chou Chia-chun (周佳君), director-general of the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters (日日春關懷互助協會), said workers from all occupations should be given equal rights and there is no reason for sex workers to be discriminated against.

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