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Improving the quality of life for street level sex workers: a case study of their experiences with stigma in the Downtown Eastside

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Research and current events to date have indicated that street-level sex workers (SLSWs) in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) face occupational risks such as violence and addictions, and experience unsafe working conditions. SLSWs have been identified as a group that experiences immense stigma, but there is little known on how this vulnerable group accesses health and social services, and navigates their work environment. This research traces the dimensions of stigma they experience to understand how to improve upon their quality of life by promoting positive health outcomes and minimizing occupational risks. Interviews with ten self-identified sex workers and five stakeholders, identified how stigma can be considered a social determinant of health, and revealed the ways in which stigma obstructs access to health and social services. Grounded in the data collected from these interviews this research outlined five different policy options to improve the quality of life for SLSWs.
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