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Saturday, November 21, 2015


Sex Workers Anonymous (formerly Prostitutes Anonymous)
(213) 262-9810 Telephone
November 21 2015

Press Release - Charlie Sheen & HIV


My name is Jody Williams. I am the founder of not only the first hot line in the country for any adult to call for any reason to leave any part of the sex industry for any reason, but also the modern day sex trafficking movement itself. We achieved federal recognition of sex trafficking being “real” in today's world, and America, with the passing of the Trafficking Act of 2000. The 12 step program I founded originally called “Prostitutes Anonymous” was done so at the suggestion of Edwin Meese, the Attorney General of California in 1987. He had said until this country can change the laws to recognize that those arrested on prostitution charges did not belong in jail – we can as a 12 step group at least offer our program as an “alternative to incarceration” using existing laws AA had done for the alcoholic.

Back in 1987, the HIV virus was raging. A female prostitute back then contracting HIV would be dead usually within a year or less. However, not all infected could stop engaging in prostitution for a variety of reasons. For some, it was an economic necessity. They needed the sex industry in order to pay for medications which could cost as much as $10,000 a month back then which were not covered by health insurance. For others, the virus made them too ill to work at a “9 to 5” full time job or employment. Another subgroup, the sex trafficking victims had pimps refusing to allow them to even be tested, let alone stop engaging with as many as 15 “tricks” a day of unprotected sex as the clients' request.

To further complicate matters, prostitution is illegal. Members of the sex industry were afraid to come forward for testing for fear of self-incrimination. They were also afraid to carry condoms, or even have them in their homes, for fear the police/DA would consider them “evidence of prostitution”, i.e., a crime. To cut through all the red tape and move things forward in the fastest manner possible because lives were at stake – then mayor Tom Bradley, Sheriff Block, and Chief Gates formed a “commission” of people from every county department ranging from the CDC, the health department, social services, mental health, the police, prosecutors' office, probation, and myself to see what could be done to get testing and education out to members of the sex industry.

More important, something had to be done to get those infected with HIV “out of the business” immediately. A special project was set up where ex-sex workers who were HIV positive were hired to do outreach, testing, education, etc. and to reach out to the sex industry as a whole. More important, a special program was even set up to address sex trafficking. Assistance to get away from the pimp, and off the streets, was set up so that those infected with the virus could stop spreading it simply because of either economic need or by being outright forced to risk lives by their trafficker.

After setting this up, along with the first alternative sentencing program in Los Angeles that put a focus on those who were HIV positive first (we were taking those who were infected out of the jails and again into “alternatives as our first choices), I was asked to go to the east coast to set up a duplicate program back east there. That became the Program for Female Offenders.

The studies were coming back positive – in Los Angeles we had taken an over 80 percent infection rate of prostitutes and brought it down to below 8 % - which was a figure lower than that of non-prostitutes.
Keep in mind our program, Sex Workers Anonymous, does not restrict itself to ONLY helping sex trafficking victims. Nor are we limited to only working with prostitutes. We changed our name in 1995 to “Sex Workers Anonymous” to reflect the fact we work with anyone; male, female or transgender, who is engaging in any part of the sex industry; whether that be prostitution, pornography, stripping, or even madaming, who has a desire to leave the industry for ANY reason. That reason might be because of being trafficked. It might be because they've discovered they're HIV positive.

Suddenly finding you're out of work no matter what profession you're in can be a very difficult process. This is why when the AIM Clinic was open, Dr. Sharon Mitchell, an ex-porn star who became a doctor, used to make sure those who learned they were “positive”, and thus now “out of work”, had our phone number to help them connect to others like themselves to get support to go through what was to come. It's also why anyone in the HIV/AIDS testing industry who was giving a positive diagnosis to a sex worker also gave them our number so we could help them transition out of sex work.

So you can imagine my concern when I thought we had a handle on this virus years ago. Only I start getting phone calls from our members in Los Angeles while I'm living in Nevada telling me they're seeing a sudden upswing in members who are HIV positive coming into the rooms. Only we aren't living in the 1980's any longer. These men and women are reporting back to us an environment that is being far from supportive or responsive to them. However, to do or say anything to anyone about what they're encountering means they are having to not only violate their “anonymity”, but actually incriminate themselves again in an environment that's looking for headlines saying “traffickers arrested”. Thus putting us back “at odds” with the legal and medical systems once again.

Because these people want to protect their “anonymity” but also need to see something done and a line of communication opened – they started asking me to relocate back to Los Angeles so I could become not only more involved again locally with this issue, but also so I could knock on doors for them being that I'm open about my past in that I'm not only an ex-sex worker but also a trafficking survivor.

Which I did. Starting in 2013, I started knocking on the doors of the CDC, UCLA, the AHF, Michael Weinstein's office, along with any other politician and elected servant I could find to report to them that we were seeing an alarming upswing in numbers of sex workers who were HIV positive. Unlike those being focused on by Michael Weinstein and his obsession with the porn industry - these people were not going to be in the porn industry because they knew they were HIV positive.

Of specific concern to me were the calls we were getting from two factions – the Asian prostitutes in massage parlors AND those of escorts who were not porn performers (because they were not passing the HIV tests required to shoot porn). I can produce copies of letters, emails, phone calls, etc. showing that I've been trying to get people's attention to the fact we're seeing an HIV epidemic from our view.

One that had Los Angeles police been arrested juveniles for prostitution like used to be the standard practice, then these girls would be getting mandatory HIV testing. However, if you look at the statistics for the number of arrests of juvenile prostitutes for 2015 you'll see a number of ZERO. Now people from the “No Such Thing” campaign are pleased by this number of zero.

However, I've been saying for a while now I find this very alarming from the point of view of how are we supposed to document the juvenile prostitutes who are telling us they have HIV – if no one is listening to us and we can't document their status either by using the mandatory tests required when one is arrested for prostitution IF NOT ONE IS ARRESTING THEM? I even remarked to a friend of mine who belongs to SWOP that this practice was sure a great way to hide any HIV positive cases of juvenile prostitutes while the law still in place requiring mandatory testing of those arrested for prostitution. Let's just not arrest them!

Now many sex workers claim the testing is an “invasion of privacy”. People who work in the food service industry are required to undergo Hep C testing in order to protect the public health. Those people like myself who have been trying to warn of a brewing HIV crisis coming out of the sex industry say it's necessary to test in order to alert, and thus protect, the public health.

I have known of prostitutes who have been with Charlie Sheen since the late 1980's. I haven't been able to say anything publicly because he hasn't. Also to protect the anonymity of those members who reported to me their stories. However, those women have now passed away. Meaning I haven't been able to say anything before without risking being sued for defamation by Charlie.

Well, now I can say something. Back in 1987 when we first formed our program, I took care of a woman who had been working as an escort who had gone to high school with Charlie Sheen. She reported to me she was his “first love”. She was residing in the Mary Magdalene Project when I met her through her coming to our 12 step program. When she became too ill to continue residing at the MMP, I took her into my own home and cared for her until her death. I witnessed Charlie coming to visit her more than once while she was still healthy both the MMP and my home.

However, when she became too sick to work, and to care for herself financially, then I had to take her into my home to care for her. Not receiving any grant money nor being paid for my work in any way, and simply working as a paralegal - I tried reaching out to not only Charlie, but to the Sheen family for financial help to take care of her many needs. I was rebuffed. Not wanting to risk any hint of a blackmail accusation – I backed off the situation and handled things myself and at my own expense.

Thinking we were owed some kind of help – I have previously reached out to Charlie asking for help with public service announcements. I figured if he didn't want to help financially – he could at least support our work considering we now cleaning up behind his lifestyle choices. More specifically, I've asked him to consider the health of the prostitutes he was seeing at the time, and would see. More specifically, I was very concerned with what I felt was Charlie promoting his persona of being a wealthy generous “patron” of escorts in the media. I knew this image would encourage other prostitutes to be exposed to Charlie, and then what? How am I supposed to help those infected, and those who might get infected, when at same time he's also trying to cover everything up?

Services for sex workers who have contracted HIV who are not of the LGBT community have not only disappeared, they've even been actively “defunded” since the Trafficking Revictimization Act of 2003 written by Randall Tobias. What this did was essentially remove any type of HIV funding to any program who worked with those who identified NOT as a “trafficking victim”, but only as a “prostitute” or “sex worker” infected. In trying to bring to light this issue, Jeane Palfrey had released her “Black Book” showing Randall Tobias' connection to the sex industry and as the author of this Act which denied them services. However, before she could explain why she was revealing this name at the ethics hearing – she was found dead at her mother's home where she had fled to for safety the night before in fear because someone had been following her the day previous.

Because I couldn't find a lawyer, or politician, willing to do anything to change this situation, and bring back funding to heterosexual sex workers who were not identifying as “trafficking victims”, I contacted the ACLU for help. The result of this was the win of ACLU v. Catholic Bishops. This however was still ignored, so we pushed until we got the Supreme Court decision in 2012 stating basically that to limit assistance in the manner our government had been doing was a violation of our constitutional rights. When Harry Reid tried to enforce these findings – he was practically run out of office.

If you're wondering what I mean by any of this and it's connection to Charlie Sheen and HIV – I'd be happy to explain. The simplest way I can think of however is to state that I knew about Charlie's HIV status because of this woman I had cared for connected to Charlie when I first formed our hot line and 12 step program. I also knew that Charlie was hiding his status at the same time he was plowing his way through every escort in the country he could write a check for. More than his own use, he was creating an image that this was a practice to be encouraged among other men also.

So whenever a member of SWA would come through the door of our program, I try and encourage ALL of them, not just the trafficking victims, to get HIV testing done immediately. How can we plan someone's future outside of sex work until we know their health status? By 2003, SWA had chapters of our program in just about every major city of the USA. Almost all of our meetings were being held at local Salvation Army's or Catholic Charities because they were willing to allow us to meet on their property. Many other meeting halls are unwilling to allow us to meet on their property because our meetings are essentially still a meeting of “criminals” in the eyes of the law so this limited our options.

In 2003, we were handed a “pink slip” by the SA and CC to shut down our meeting space. We were even banned from coming back to speak to our “sponsees”. Any member of SWA who was working with their programs addressing prostitutes was fired. All referrals of prostitutes to us from the courts, social services, probation, mental health, the health department, etc. was blocked. When we investigated why – we were told the Catholic Bishops had come in with a checkbook in one hand, and in the other hand a threat to any federal funding (look at how they've attacked the funding of Planned Parenthood), as well as the financial support of politicians (again look to Planned Parenthood). The reason for this “hijacking” if you will of very field we helped to create was because they wanted trafficking victims NOT to be connected to any medical doctors and/or therapists who would be involved with HIV testing, nor any education involving “birth control” which includes condoms.

I'd like to add that when Planned Parenthood came under attack by virtually the same parties for a lot of the same reasons – this is a service where people can stand up proudly and defend. Actors, politicians, doctors, and any other supported of Planned Parenthood can stand up and defend them in a way members of Sex Workers Anonymous however can not because it risks their identity and may even possibly incriminate them. With Charlie spending his money and efforts to further conceal his secrets – this has been especially difficult for us to try and get any information out to the public.

All I can say at this point is thank you Charlie for finally stepping up with the truth. Now maybe we can start getting the rest of the truth out in the open as well. SWA members are reporting to me they are HIV positive and I need help from people just like we had in the 1980's to do something about this not just for their sake – but for the sake of the public health and safety.   

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