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Hungary: The How and Why of Getting High

Boglárka, of the newly renamed Association of Hungarian Sex Workers informs us about recent research on Hungarian sex workers and drug use. The findings deconstruct many stereotypes about who gets high and why.

SWAN News: Please tell us about your organization’s recent name change from MPEE to SZEXE.
The Association changed its name from Association of Hungarian Prostitutes to Association of Hungarian Sex Workers since the employees of the organization believe that it better reflects their view of sex workers as workers and the concept of sex work as work. We believe that the word “sex worker” indicates that sex workers contribute to the country’s economy by paying taxes.

SN: Please tell us about SZEXE's latest research. What did you want to learn?
The Association of Hungarian Sex Workers was recently awarded a grant that enabled the organization to conduct a survey of Hungarian sex workers’ drug use. The major aim of the research was to investigate the tendencies of drug use among sex workers and to compare these to the results of similar surveys within the general population. The researchers also attempted to analyze the functions of drug use in the context of sex work.

SN: What did you learn?
The survey found a correlation between educational level and workplace. Sex workers with a low level of education are likely to be found working on the street, while college graduates are more likely to work in their own apartments or as call-girls and escorts.
Similarly to the situation within the general population, for most sex workers, the most commonly used drugs are tobacco and alcohol (For alcohol: 48% use frequently, 29% use occasionally; for tobacco: 62% use frequently, 2% use occasionally). The numbers of those who consume illegal drugs are the following:
• marijuana/hashish (27% use frequently, 15% use occasionally);
• speed/amphetamine (17% use frequently, 9% use occasionally);
• extasy (12% use frequently, 11% use occasionally);
• cocaine (8% use frequently, 12% use occasionally).

For the majority of sex workers surveyed, there is no particular relation between their drug use and the nature of sex work; sex workers turn to drugs for recreational purposes, just like the general population. Only 6 % of the survey participants mentioned that they used drugs because they wanted to make “the sex act more bearable” and only 5 % mentioned that they used drugs to fulfill the needs of clients or pimps. However, 9.2 % of sex workers used drugs for a specific purpose: to overcome their tiredness due to a lack of sleep. This is the only reason that can be closely related to sex workers’ lifestyle.

The initial hypothesis, that drug addiction is among the major motivations to do sex work, was not proved. Only 20 % of the sex workers had occasionally done sex work to get money for drugs. Moreover, 95 % of sex workers had never provided sexual services for payment in drugs.

SN: Did you learn anything surprising?
We were surprised how strong the correlation between the drug type and the location of the sex work is. In the sample, 33 % of the street sex workers use speed, and none of them use cocaine. In contrast, 38 % of those who work as escorts and call girls use cocaine regularly, but none of them consume speed. Bar and salon employees show a tendency to drink alcohol frequently (74%), and twice as much as sex workers working in their own apartments (31%). A large percentage of street sex workers are smokers (74 %), while among escorts and call girls this rate is only 14 %.

SN: What do you hope to do with the results?
The results of the survey show that it is extremely important to hold drug prevention campaigns targeting sex workers since they form a high-risk group in terms of drug use. The organization wishes to use the results of the survey to give relevant information materials tailored to specific groups of sex workers (street sex workers, call girls, sex workers working in apartments, etc.) in order to reach them more efficiently. According to the results of the survey, most of the sex workers (90 %) have never received medical treatment. The accessibility of medical services to sex workers also needs to be examined in the future by qualitative research.

SZEXE http://www.prostitualtak.hu/
Contact person: Boglarka Fedorko, mpeeandras@gmail.com