The ACT health department has appealed for clients of a Canberra-based male sex worker to seek medical care after he was charged with providing sexual services while knowingly carrying a sexually transmitted disease.

The 41-year-old Kingston resident advertised in local press under the names Adam and Josh throughout 2007 before being directed to cease sex work under the Public Health Act.

Police also charged the man with failing to register as a sex worker. He will reappear in court today, 7 February.

I urge anyone who may have had sexual contact with this person to seek medical care from either their general practitioner or the Canberra Sexual Health Centre, ACT Chief Health Officer Charles Guest said.

Guest told a media conference 250 phone numbers had been collected from the man’s mobile by police as possible clients put at risk.

But ACT Health has come under criticism from sex worker lobby group Scarlet Alliance and the National Association for People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) for subjecting the man, who has pleaded not guilty, to a trial by media.

The high levels of condom use among Australian sex workers means there is no need to exclude HIV-positive people from sex work, Scarlet Alliance CEO Janelle Fawkes said.

We know that in the majority of cases it is the client who does not perceive themselves to be at risk and the sex worker that successfully negotiates and implements safe sex practices.

NAPWA executive director Jo Watson attacked the decision to release the man’s identity and medical details.

It is dangerous to the individual, dangerous to those who are by implication connected to his alleged activities, and dangerous for anyone living with HIV to see human rights and personal dignities trampled over in this way, Watson said.

We now have a situation where many people living with HIV in Australia are again feeling demonised and under attack by hysteria and scare-mongering playing out in the general community, created by a clumsy public health intervention.

ACT Health established a hotline for enquiries on 1800 000 974.

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