Harm Reduction Issues

Sex Work

Sex work is an issue central to the Harm Reduction movement. The National Harm Reduction Coalition is committed to creating real space and resources for sex workers and highlighting the important intersection in our work.

We’re the first to say that we haven’t been doing enough to support the sex work community. Until then, we’re sharing the resources we do have and using this space to curate and uplift other organizations and groups doing a great job at showing up for people who engage in sex work.

Nathalia Gibbs conducting a training on sex work
Credit: Community

Search the Resource Library

Explore our resource library for practical resources to promote the health and dignity of people affected by drug use. You’ll find up-to-date fact sheets, webinars, manuals, training guides, and more.

Understanding the Issue

Sex work is work. We believe it’s what someone does, not who they are. Everyone who engages in sex work has unique, personal reasons for doing so.

Sex workers and their communities are at the forefront of the Harm Reduction movement because there are strong similarities between drug use and sex work. Both are heavily stigmatized. And, much like people who use drugs, people who engage in sex work are marginalized and criminalized for the choices they make about their bodies.

Sex work is both a racial justice and a gender justice issue. Black and Latinx sex workers, trans sex workers, and especially Black/Latinx trans sex workers report disproportionate rates of arrest and assault compared to their white and cis counterparts.

Learn more about sex work and harm reduction in this fact sheet.

Spectrum of Sex Work

While there are all sorts of reasons why people may engage in sex work, we believe that all sex work falls on a spectrum from choice to circumstance to coercion.


a person chooses to do sex work, regardless of whether they have other options


a person may not choose to engage in sex work under different circumstances, but sex work is providing them with something they need right now


a person is being forced by someone else to engage in sex work

The National Harm Reduction Coalition believes any sex work done against the sex worker’s will and without consent is trafficking. We do not condone sex work that is not explicity consensual.

Our Stance on Sex Work

The National Harm Reduction Coalition supports decriminalization, not legalization of all forms of sex work.

Legalization would place even more restrictions on sex workers, putting them at greater risk.

Decriminalization will prohibit governments and law enforcement from interfering with sex work activity entirely.

As part of the Decrim NY coalition we’re working to decriminalize, decarcerate, and destigmatize people who engage in sex work.

Learn more about Decrim NY

Sex Work Safety Tips

No one knows what’s best for you better than you. If you engage in sex work, here are some harm reduction strategies that can help you keep yourself safe.


Use barrier methods and birth control.


Work in pairs.


Distribute “bad date sheets.”

Looking for more detailed info? Check out the Male Sex Work Handbook.

Show Up for People Who Engage in Sex Work

If you want to stay engaged and support people who engage in sex work, there are a few concrete actions you can take to make a difference.

Find your local Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Chapter.

Become a penpal to an incarcerated sex worker.

Donate to local sex worker bailout funds.

Talk to your loved ones about why sex work decriminalization matters.

Support local sex workers by paying for their services, expertise, and time.

Resources We Love by Groups We Respect

Harm reduction touches so many issues. We can’t possibly speak to them all.

Thankfully there are a lot of other groups sharing knowledge about the intersection between drug use and sex work.

Harm Reduction Needs You. Join the Movement.

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