Male and female sex workers in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., are the focus of a new HIV prevention program launched by the local Red Cross chapter that aims to slow the spread of the virus among these high-risk groups, the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader reports. The program, run by the Wyoming Valley chapter of the Red Cross, is the first of its kind in the nation, Red Cross officials say. City workers use an agency van to reach the sex workers, providing them with information about HIV prevention and with condoms. The program is supported by state funds and not private donations to the Red Cross.
"We realized we really needed to look at high-risk populations because many of our sex industry workers have cross addictions," Mark Innocenzi, Red Cross regional director of education and outreach, told the Times Leader. The Red Cross estimates it reaches about 2,000 to 3,000 people each month through all of its HIV prevention outreach. Five agency staff members focus on specific high-risk groups, including sex workers.