Needs Assessment Committee Meeting May 9, 2024

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Members Present: Emma Kaywin (Co-Chair), Marcy Thompson (Co-chair), John Schoepp, Arthur Fitting, Marcy Sedlacek, Billy Fields, Raffi Babakhanian, Fay Barrett, Jennifer Irwin, David Martin, Freddy Molano, Reginald Brown, Claire Simon

DOHMH, PHS, NYS, CHAIN, and Other Staff Present: Doienne Saab, Adrian Guzman, Monika Pathak, Alyssa Prince, Renee James, Kimbirly Mack, Johanna Acosta, Adrianna Eppinger-Meirering Sara Kramer, Victoria Von Blaque, Nadine Alexander, Lilian Ha, Cristina Rodriguez-Hart

Agenda Item #1:

Introductions/Moment of Silence/Minutes/Announcements:

Emma K. and Marcy T. opened the meeting with attendee introductions. A moment of silence was held. Additional time to approve March’s meeting minutes was given.

Agenda Item #2:

Presentation – Sex Work Legislation and Policies in New York City and New York State

Adrian Guzman, Director of Policy and External Affairs (NYC DOHMH), presented on New York State laws related to sex work, NYC District Attorneys’ Offices approach to sex work, the NYC Task Force on the Health and Safety of Sex Workers and the NYC DOHMH Sex Work/er Work Group. He discussed the decriminalization of certain-related prostitution criminal charges in the State such as the repeal of N.Y. Penal Law § 240.37 (“Loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense”). He highlighted the ongoing legislative efforts to decriminalize prostitution, including a bill pending that would expunge prior convictions for prostitution-related convictions. If the bill passes, it will make NYC the first jurisdiction to dismiss hundreds of cases involving charges under the prostitution offense.

Adrian G. also discussed the NYC Task Force on the Health and Safety of Sex Workers and their key areas of focus: criminal justice, employment, and housing; including the task force’s policy recommendations for the NYC Mayor to address issues impacting sex workers. Adrian G. will share the resources and materials previously presented at the NYC DOHMH Sex Work/er Work Group meetings; update the NAC on any policy and resources related to immigrant and other marginalized groups within the sex worker population, to support the committee with their development of recommendations to improve RWPA services for sex workers with HIV.

Presentation – Background to Sex Work, HIV and Public Health

Doienne Saab, Community Planner (NYC DOHMH), presented on the barriers that impact access to HIV and health care services for people involved in sex work. She emphasized the importance of collaborating with sex worker-led organizations for informing programming for the population. She also shared mutual aid organizations/CBOS and guides, and resources for committee members to learn more about sex work advocacy.

Presentation – Trans Equity Consulting Presents Supporting Sex Workers (COIN Clinic)

Victoria Von Blaque, Consultant (TransEquity Consulting), provided a background on the COIN clinic and the importance of its services to meet the needs of sex workers. Victoria V.B., described sex work as the exchange of sexual services or performances for money or goods, and it how it encompasses various activities such as escort services, pornography, and adult entertainment. Sex work can involve individuals who engage in consensual, adults sex work as a means of earning or living or a personal choice. She noted that sex work is the oldest profession in the world, yet people never want to talk about the healing power of sex work but would rather shame and offend people who take part in it. She emphasized that sex workers need more than just the assumed HIV and-related sexual health services but that they also need services to take of all their needs e.g., pampering/self-care. During the presentation, a video was played, it featured COIN’s clinic late founder, Cecilia Gentili providing an overview of the array of healthcare services available to sex workers free of charge.  Victoria V.B., shared that COIN clinic’s client-centered and prioritization of client-autonomy has led to the program’s success in retaining individuals who initially have reservations about receiving care in medical settings. Since the program’s establishment, 608 clients have enrolled into the clinic; in 2024 there have been 125 new clients. The COIN clinic continues to have a steady increase in their number of new enrollees each month. She also mentioned that the clinic has noted an increase in the frequency of routine visits per clients, annually (3 clinical visits/year). Overall, COIN clinic clients have expressed their satisfaction with the program, with one client sharing that for the first time in their life they have a consistent primary care provider. Victoria V.B., emphasized the importance of understanding that clients know what works best for them. If a member of the community experiences care that is offensive or stigmatizing, they will not return to a program and often their bad experiences will be shared with others who will also not patronize. In addition, she shared that the misconception of sex workers being vectors of disease is false and offensive. She recommended that providers listen to what sex workers say they want and not to base their delivery of care and offering of services (such as PrEP) based upon stigmatizing “risk-based” screeners. Following, Victoria V.B.’s presentation, committee members shared their appreciation for the information shared.  

Doienne announced that she will continue to work with the co-chairs in addition to subject matter experts to identify presenters and related content for the June and July NAC meetings. For the remainder of the planning year, the NAC will develop recommendations to improve RWPA services for sex workers with HIV.

Adjournment There being no more discussion, the meeting was adjourned.