A project on sex workers and medical trials found, not surprisingly, that workers preferred to participate in research that was explained to them in terms — and a language — they could understand.
Researchers Dan Allman and Melissa Ditmore surveyed sex workers for their report, Good Practice for Sex Workers' Participation in Biomedical HIV Prevention Trials. They found that sex workers didn't necessarily know about research practices and medical ethics, and that researchers didn't know they didn't know. To remedy this, they suggested that researchers — shocker — actually "consult local sex workers at each proposed location before beginning a trial." Allman and Ditmore write,
Many sex workers had recommendations for researchers hoping to work with sex workers such as involving stakeholders from the outset, explaining procedures in non-technical terms and translating all materials and information into local languages.
They also say that many sex workers "wanted to learn more about research and would consider involvement in research providing they were confident it was ethical and participatory." So basically sex workers are interested in participating in clinical trials, provided they know what they're getting into. We wonder if that was the case with the participants recent nonoxynol-9 trials, who experienced no reduction in HIV transmission and an increase in genital lesions. Whether or not these women were truly informed, it makes sense that future studies need to treat sex workers as "stakeholders," and not passive "subjects" with no interests of their own.
Note: The women pictured are Bolivian sex workers protesting for the right to work.