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October 23, 2000

Sterk explores connection between
AIDS, prostitution

By Holly Korschun

Almost 20 years ago, Claire Sterk began her ethnographic research with the first national study of AIDS and prostitution in the United States. She has since gone on to make groundbreaking discoveries in the world where prostitution, crack cocaine and AIDS intersect.

Sterk will share her findings from her studies on the lives of prostitutes in the age of AIDS as part of Emory's 2000-01 Great Teachers Lecture Series.

“Tricking and Tripping: Prostitution in the Era of AIDS” will be held Thursday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in 208 White Hall. Sterk will present a detailed analysis of the complex lives of prostitutes, including common pathways into prostitution, types of prostitution careers, the role of boyfriends and pimps, the interrelationships between prostitution and drug use, as well as the threat of violence hovering around prostitutes.

Sterk has spent decades building trust between herself and prostitutes in Atlanta and New York. In her qualitative research, she is able to capture an intimate portrait of how prostitutes negotiate their way through extremely complex lives—lives that must be clearly understood if effective prevention and intervention programs can be developed for prostitution and drug use.

“The process of trying to understand the complexities of these women’s lives has in turn changed my own, both as a person and as a professional,” Sterk writes in her recently published book on prostitution, “As a researcher, I have learned how we often base our work on our own experiences and assumptions.”

In her lecture, Sterk said she hopes to go beyond those experiences and assumptions and suggest what might be done to improve the complex lives of women mired in poverty, violence and drug use.

Sterk came to Emory in 1995 as an associate professor of behavioral sciences and health Education and associate director of the Women’s and Children’s Center at the Rollins School of Public Health. In August she was named department chair. She also chairs the Faculty Council and is president of University Senate.

A native of Amsterdam, Sterk was a member of the team that investigated the syphilis outbreak in Rockdale County and was interviewed for “The Lost Children of Rockdale County,” a program that aired on PBS's Frontline in October 1999.

Sterk’s lecture is free and open to the public. For further information, call 404-727-6000.


Back to Emory Report Oct. 23, 2000