• Presentation

Beyond prescientific reasoning: Community-based participatory research with sex workers


Lutnick, A., & Cohan, D. (2012, July). Beyond prescientific reasoning: Community-based participatory research with sex workers. Presented at AIDS 2012, Washington, DC.


Methods: The ways in which methodologically rigorous, transparent and participatory research with sex workers can be conducted is illustrated through a case study of research conducted by the University of California, San Francisco and the St. James Infirmary, a peer-run occupational health and safety clinic for sex workers. We employed a community-based participatory approach that integrated sex workers throughout the entire research process, respected sex workers' positionality, and provided opportunities for skill development and community empowerment.
Results: This study used the most integrated approach of community involvement, with sex workers represented at all levels of the research process and team, except for the Principal Investigator. Peer involvement at the formative stages of the research, when the aims and questions were decided, through to analysis and presentation of the data, ensured that the research was scientifically rigorous and relevant to and respectful of the needs of sex workers. Peer research team members helped create the qualitative and quantitative instruments, played key roles in developing the study protocol, developed educational pamphlets for study participants, conducted all interviews, and assisted with data analysis, manuscript preparation and dissemination.
Conclusion: Community and academic research partnerships offer many benefits. The likelihood that research was relevant to and valued by community members was enhanced by involving sex workers in all aspects of this project. By engaging local knowledge, the quality and validity of our research was improved. Involving sex workers in data analysis improved external validity, and facilitated a more nuanced understanding of the issue. This study can serve as a model for conducting participatory research with sex workers.