Hawaiʿi Health & Harm Reduction Center supports the decriminalization of sex work between consenting adults. Sex work can refer to a broad range of transactions but can be most closely defined as the commercial exchange of a sexual service for money or other benefits, including housing, transportation, or other survival needs.
Sex workers are not a uniform group and should not be treated as such. All genders, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds are involved in sex work. However, as a harm reduction agency whose mission is to focus our efforts on those disproportionately affected by social determinants of health, we recognize that the continued stigmatization of sex work unjustly affects the most marginalized members of our community who already face significant legal, social, and economic obstacles to their well-being. Sex workers include persons who use drugs, persons who are gay, bisexual, transgender or gender non-conforming, persons who are homeless or unstably housed, persons fleeing domestic violence and sexual abuse, and persons facing discrimination due to physical and intellectual disabilities.
The continued criminalization of sex work—including intensive surveillance, arrest, incarceration, and protracted periods of criminal justice supervision—further perpetuates systemic violence and inequalities experienced by members of these communities. A criminal record with misdemeanor or felony convictions can preclude a person’s ability to obtain needed employment, education, and housing opportunities, and forestall their full participation in civic life.
The decriminalization of sex work is an urgent public health and social justice matter and should be recognized as such. Incarcerating persons who engage in sex work is not beneficial to their physical or psychological health and well-being. Criminalization should not extend to those persons providing harm reduction services to sex workers.
Sex workers, like all humans, possess the right to self-determination and to define what their needs are. They should be treated with dignity and respect in every aspect of their lives. We support non-judgmental, non-coercive harm reduction-based models that advocate for the health and safety of sex workers and promote the inclusion of anyone in the community regardless of their circumstances.
Those engaged in sex work must have a voice in programs and policies that impact them. Absent active participation by sex workers, policy reform efforts risk augmenting pervasive stigma against those currently dehumanized and maltreated by dominant structures of economic, legal, political, and social power.
Sex trafficking differs from consensual sex work as it coercively violates the dignity and autonomy interests of another person. HHHRC is anti-trafficking and we support all movements against sexual exploitation. Unfortunately, current laws and community dialog conflate trafficking with consensual sex work, negating the autonomy of persons who choose to do sex work. We vehemently oppose sex trafficking while simultaneously supporting consensual sex workers’ rights to self-determination and collective association. These two ideals are not mutually exclusive, and in fact cannot be separated if we are to work towards the goal of liberation for all.
Formal statement coming soon.
Vaping & E-Cigarettes
Formal statement coming soon.
Formal statement coming soon.
Hawaiʿi Health & Harm Reduction Center strives to foster health, wellness, and systemic change in Hawaiʿi and the Pacific. We serve many who are disproportionately affected by social determinants of health, including Native Hawaiians. Among our core values are compassion, integrity, respect, and a dedication to eliminating the stigmas and systemic injustices impacting the communities we serve and represent.
We firmly support the right of Native Hawaiians to maintain their identity through language, collective association, cultural and spiritual expression, and stewardship of Hawaiʿi’s natural environment.
Native Hawaiian identity has been subject to diminution, maltreatment, and marginalization since the advent of sustained contact with colonial powers. Historically this included the formal suppression of Native Hawaiian spirituality, culture, and language. Contemporary indicia of the ongoing dispossession of Native Hawaiians include relatively low levels of educational attainment; higher levels of chronic illnesses and behavioral health issues; lower life expectancies; disproportionate levels of housing instability, economic insecurity, incarceration and criminal justice system involvement; and continued underrepresentation in higher education, licensed professions, and elective politics.
Hawaiʿi’s natural resources remain an integral component of Native Hawaiian identity. These natural resources continue to be exploited for the benefit of select exogenous economic interests, often with adverse impacts upon ecosystem biodiversity. Government-sanctioned activities and policies that foreseeably impact Native Hawaiians should forward a heightened commitment to social equity to promote fairness and justice. Social equity includes the express provision of community benefits to those impacted by government-sanctioned activities.
We support the protectors of Maunakea and stand in solidarity with all indigenous people fighting to protect their cultural and natural resources.
Black Lives Matter, Racism & Public Health
HHHRC stands in solidarity with those who are calling for an end to racial injustice in America in the wake of the homicide of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd’s death is emblematic of the maltreatment of Black men, women, and children by the criminal legal system over the course of America’s history. HHHRC supports the Black Lives Matter movement and others fighting for equal justice under law.*
In alignment with its mission to reduce harm, promote health, create wellness, and fight stigma, HHHRC is committed to advancing health equity in Hawai῾i and across the nation. As noted by the American Public Health Association, “Racism is a driving force of the social determinants of health (like housing, education and employment) and is a barrier to health equity.” HHHRC recognizes that racism is a public health crisis requiring more concerted attention by public and private institutions to tangibly improve the health and well-being of marginalized and underserved populations.
State and local governments across America, including those in Hawai῾i, must continually re-evaluate their own laws, polices, and practices to ensure that they are not perpetuating bias and stigma against persons on the basis of race and other legally protected categories. We also emphatically reaffirm our commitment to reforms that would reduce and eliminate structural biases and stigmas against those impacted by social determinants of health and those with behavioral health concerns.
*For more information on America’s ongoing struggle for civil and human rights, please visit the NAACP, Equal Justice Initiative, and The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights. The Pōpolo Project also “highlights the vivid, complex diversity of Blackness” in Hawai῾i.
HHHRC POLICY POSITIONS
HHHRC RELEASES 2019 SYRINGE EXCHANGE ANNUAL REPORT
Hawai῾i Health & Harm Reduction Center released our latest annual report outlining the ongoing successes of Hawaiʿi’s publicly-funded statewide syringe access program (SEP), which began in 1989 to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS. Over 1.18 million syringes were exchanged during the report’s 2019 time frame.