A new center led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researcher Dr. Susan Sherman opened on June 1. SPARC, which stands for Sex Workers Promoting Action, Risk Reduction, and Community Mobilization, is one of the nation’s first targeted, full-service centers focused on providing services to women, particularly female sex workers. The center, which is located in the Baltimore neighborhood Pig Town in West Baltimore, provides addiction management, mental health counseling, sexual disease treatment. Dr. Sherman is a professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of health, behavior and society.
[Photo: Dr. Susan Sherman]
The center is the central component of an intervention to support the development of a community empowerment, HIV prevention intervention aimed to reduce sexual- and drug-related HIV risk behaviors among female sex workers in Baltimore. Dr. Sherman has secured primary funding from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) for the project. In addition to the full-service drop-in center, the center is training peer educators to conduct HIV prevention outreach to street- and venue-based female sex workers.
SPARC began providing services last November. In its first six months, SPARC served about 150 women, and has had about 600 visits total.
Several partner agencies, which have experience working with marginalized populations in Baltimore City, are providing services at the center: the Baltimore City Health Department offers HIV/STI testing and counseling, and reproductive health services by a nurse practitioner and medical assistant; Healthcare for the Homeless, which provides individual and group therapy through licensed clinical social worker; Legal Aid, which offers free legal services in the Center; and the Behavioral Health Leadership Institute, which supports addiction management through inducting and maintaining women on suboxone and providing referrals to long-term drug treatment
SPARC is hosting an art exhibit of paintings featuring three different representations of eight of the women that SPARC has served. The paintings are accompanied by a narrative about the women, as well as a short film. The exhibit opened on June 1 and is open by appointment. Contact Ms. Emily Crouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.