This Week in Sex: Zurich’s ‘Sex Boxes,’ Second Porn Star Tests HIV-Positive, and a New Reason to Use Condoms


This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Zurich Creates “Sex Boxes” for City’s Prostitutes

Prostitution has been legal in the Swiss city of Zurich since 1942, but in recent years residents have said the sex trade has become a public nuisance. They have complained that it causes traffic on busy downtown streets, leads to public sex, and because of a lack of facilities sex workers and their clients urinate and defecate in the streets. Violence against sex workers is also an issue in the city.

To solve these problems, voters agreed to invest 2.4 million Swiss francs, or about $2.6 million, to build drive-in “sex boxes” in an industrial complex just outside the city. Sex workers will rent the boxes for about $43 a year and pay an additional $5 per night in taxes. Between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m., clients can drive into the complex, negotiate with a sex worker, and then pull their car into a box where they can have sex in the car. The complex has bathrooms, showers, and security. It also has a social worker on-site trained to deal with sex workers.

The city will spend over $700,000 per year to keep the complex running, but many residents think the investment will be worth it if it solves the issues involved with legalized prostitution. A spokesperson for the city’s department of social welfare said, “We can’t solve the whole problem of exploitation and human trafficking but at least we want to reduce the harm, especially the violence.”

Another Porn Star Tests Positive for HIV

Last week, RH Realty Check reported that porn actress Cameron Bay tested positive for HIV, shutting down the adult film industry while her colleagues and co-stars were tested. Though that self-imposed moratorium was lifted, a new one is in effect now that a gay porn star, whose screen name is Rod Daily, also tested positive for HIV.

Daily announced his test results via Twitter, saying, “Drumroll please!! I’m 32 years old and I’m HIV positive. Acute HIV, which means I recently was infected.” According to Daily, he was tested last week and no antibodies showed up, but they did on this week’s test. He says his doctors have told him this means he was infected within the last month. While this may be good news for Daily’s health (as he put it in another tweet, “I’m blessed for the fact that I caught it so early that I can blast that shit with meds”), it shows the problem with relying on even frequent testing as a prevention method. Not only can tests miss recently acquired HIV, the newly infected are among the most contagious.

Public health advocates and lawmakers who have been pushing for condom mandates on film sets said that two cases in two weeks proves that self-regulation of the adult entertainment industry is not sufficient. California Assemblyman Isadore Hall, who wants a statewide bill mandating condoms in adult films, said, “This is the second individual within a week and a half to contract HIV in the industry. There will probably be more.”

Added Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, “After lifting its self-imposed moratorium on shooting last week, the porn industry and the Free Speech Coalition do not have one shred of credibility left with the news now of performer Rod Daily’s acute (i.e. recent) HIV infection … we remain gravely concerned the porn industry continues to endanger its workers by ignoring prudent health and worker safety laws by shooting adult films with out condoms.”

A spokesperson for Free Speech Coalition, the trade organization that is charged with self-regulating the industry, has said that the new pause in filming will be lifted when everyone involved has been tested and cleared.

Yet Another Reason to Use a Condom: Good Bacteria

Researchers in China have discovered a potential new reason to use condoms: healthy bacteria. The Chinese scientists recruited 164 married women who were healthy and not on hormonal methods of contraception—some used condoms, others had intrauterine devices (IUDs), and some relied on natural family planning. They then swabbed each woman’s vagina on day 21 of her menstrual cycle and examined the bacteria that were present.

The researchers found that condom users were more likely to have lactobacillus, a kind of bacteria that produces lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide and is thought to keep the pH levels of the vagina balanced. As LiveScience explains, intercourse—especially with ejaculation—can upset the balance in a woman’s vagina and “this ‘acidic buffer system,’ as the researchers called it, is thought to block harmful bacteria from taking up residence and causing infections.” Specifically, it can prevent bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common infection that causes itching and discharge. It may also help prevent HIV transmission.

The researchers, therefore, conclude that consistent condom use can help prevent both BV and HIV by keeping vaginal bacteria in balance. Of course, we also know that consistent condom use can help prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases by blocking the exchange of semen and vaginal fluids and that it’s an easy and inexpensive way to prevent pregnancy as well.

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