Programming Connection


HIV Community Link
Calgary, Alberta

Why Was the Program Developed?

In Canada, sex work is legal. However, the laws surrounding sex work in Canada make it almost impossible to engage in this type of work legally. As a result, people who participate in sex work in Canada experience a number of challenges to their health, including violence, discrimination, social isolation, poverty and addiction.

In Calgary, as in many other Canadian cities, it is challenging to determine the exact number of people involved in sex work due to the transient and stigmatized nature of the work. Many sex workers do not identify as being involved in the profession; some simply do not consider their exchange of sexual services for money or other services or goods to be sex work.

In 2007, to determine if there were any gaps in the services delivered to sex workers in Calgary, the United Way conducted a research project on sex work in the city. The results from this project indicated that the two existing programs for sex workers in Calgary were exit-based and that many sex workers weren’t accessing either.

When one of two organizations in Calgary offering health and support services to sex workers ceased operations, the United Way asked community service organizations in Calgary to submit proposals for a new program to effectively serve sex workers in the city according to the latest research.

Reviewing the data, HIV Community Link determined that a harm reduction approach was needed to engage sex workers in a program that would improve and maintain their health, providing services to sex workers who chose to remain in sex work as well as to those who were planning to exit. Taking elements from model programs across Canada (particularly ORCHID and the Wish Drop-in Centre in Vancouver as well as Stella in Montreal), AIDS Calgary created Shift.