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Checking clients

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How to check your clients for visible signs of STIs

Make it clear to the client that it is safe sex or no sex! The first thing to do to prevent infection is to check your clients for visible signs of STIs (though remember not all STIs have visible signs). It is best to check your client after you have taken the money and before he has a shower or goes to the toilet. Urinating can clear a discharge and will take about half an hour for it to build before it is visible.

Try and make your client feel comfortable by explaining that the check is for their health as well as yours. Tell them you do it with everyone - including regulars. Develop a routine that works for you.

Clients often expect to receive a health check from seeing other sex workers. Clients usually appreciate the health check, saying to workers: “I feel safe with you—and that’s why I come back” and “It’s sexy when you’re on your knees in front of me”. Some workers do the health check before the job, especially full-service workers. Some massage and other workers find it easier to do a discreet health check during the job, before they touch the client’s genital area.

Find out from co-workers about what they do, or phone SWOP for more advice or information. Develop a routine that suits your work style and the type of sex work you are doing.

Where to look

  • Lift the client’s penis and have a good look around the genital area.
  • Lift his balls and pull back his foreskin.
  • Gently squeeze along the shaft of his penis to see if a discharge emerges.
  • Look between the area of his anus and penis.
  • Check around the anal area.
  • For a female client, look between the vaginal lips.
  • Look through the pubic hair and around the genitals, thighs and buttocks.

What to look for

  • Sores, blisters, rashes, and warts.
  • Itching, redness, swollen glands, unpleasant odour.
  • Discharge—if it is milky, thick, yellowish, grayish and/or smelly it could be gonorrhoea or chlamydia.
  • Crabs—these are brown or white and look like freckles.
  • Look over mouth and lips for blisters and sores, especially if you kiss your clients.

Remember: pre-cum can look normal, but it may still be infectious.

Check over the rest of the body, looking for sores, just to be sure. If you are unsure ask another worker for their opinion.

Try not to get upset with a client if you find something that looks like an STI. After all, they may not have realised themselves. Try to get a co-worker to back you up if necessary, especially to double check if the client thinks they’re “clean”. Recommend the client visits a clinic for tests and treatment before they come back. It can be useful to keep some contact cards from your local sexual health clinic to give to clients.  Also, find out what the management or receptionists will do in the way of support under these circumstances before you start seeing clients.

If you have to or want to provide a service, offer hand relief (using a glove), an alternative service like B&D, or an erotic “act” or fantasy while they masturbate themselves.

Remember: STIs frequently cause no signs or symptoms. Using a condom is essential, even when there are no visible signs when you check your client.