What is Persist?
Persist Health Project is a New York City-based community health partnership, made up of health educators, social workers, nurse practitioners and human rights advocates, all of whom have either current or former experience in the sex trade or are our committed allies. It is founded on a belief that when we take control of our health and wellness together through education and health care, it is an act of empowerment and a tool for positive change.
In New York City, people in the sex trade (those engaging in transactional sex for money, services or goods, by choice, circumstance or coercion) deal with unique issues when visiting a health care provider. Often, it is hard for us to disclose our status as a person in the sex trade free of judgment or ridicule. It can also be hard to access health services that are affirming of life experiences, whatever that might look like.
Many health care providers get minimal training on how to work with people who have traded sex or how to discuss issues related to sex in general. As a result, many providers either don’t know much about addressing the needs of people with experience in the sex trade, because no one has ever come out to them, or the provider is afraid to ask for fear of seeming ill-informed. Health care professionals are left to base their care on preconceived notions of us, often derived from harmful media or from stereotypes, rather than direct experience.
In public health, people who have been involved with the sex trade are often thought of as either victims or vectors of disease, with heavy emphasis on STI (sexually transmitted infection) transmission. We see the health of those involved with or impacted by the sex trade as more than the sum of these experiences. Rather than focusing solely on individuals’ sexual health, we regard those who seek our services as whole people, in need of holistic care.