DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdad159 ISSN:

50 shades of lockdown: sex workers’ hidden world during COVID pandemic

Maria Grazia Modena, Elisa Lodi, Eleonora Rodighiero, Paolo Alberto Gasparini
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • General Medicine



The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on psychological health and socioeconomic structures. The consequences of COVID-19 on the physical, psychological, and social spheres have been extensively studied, except for aspects concerning sexuality and sex workers, in terms of physical, social and economic impact, but also as a possible cause for viral transmission.


With the intention of counteracting the lack of research, from September 2020 to August 2022, we distributed an anonymous questionnaire to Sex Workers' associations aimed at investigating the impact of the pandemics on sex workers. In the period examined we received and reviewed 147 questionnaires from women, men, and transsexuals.


The prevention of the viral transmission during a pandemic is of utmost importance but should not be exclusively promoted at the expense of other important prevention initiatives. Safeguarding psycho-physical health of the general population, including effective health educational communications emphasizing the importance of sexual activity in mental and physical health should be part of ongoing health objectives. These approaches need to include sex workers of all genders-particularly racialized and marginalized sex workers-in public health planning and messaging alongside structural interventions. Full decriminalization of sex work and access to workplace protections are key to protecting both sex workers' and clients' health. Sex workers of all genders have often been among the first hit by epidemics and the last to be protected-it is long past time to change that.

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