Urban Planning Department Chair Lois Takahashi  has been awarded a two-year, $430,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant, titled “Examining the Geographies of Immigrant Sex Work: An Exploratory Study of HIV Risk,” supports a study to provide a better understanding of “indoor venue-based sex work” in both New York City and Los Angeles.
The project aims to develop strategies for specifically targeting HIV risk-reduction to high-risk sex-work locales. Studies have shown that a significant percentage of female sex workers are Asian immigrants, who opt to provide services through indoor, or “off-street,” venues where detection and monitoring become less prevalent obstacles. The most popular venues of the kind include aromatherapy firms, massage parlors and tanning salons, many of which have proliferated in urban settings following increased arrests of street-based workers.
Thus far, numerous factors have precluded the use of HIV preventative measures, such as limited condom use, coercion from clients and financial incentives offered for unprotected sex. The study design will identify sources of variation in HIV risk among Asian ethnic groups and locations, allowing insight into why some venues exhibit greater risk for STI infection than others.
Takahashi’s research agenda spans HIV/AIDS prevention and mitigation, criminal justice issues, the impacts of violence on juveniles in the justice system, and environmental governance. She received her Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Southern California and currently serves as director of UC’s Asian American Pacific Islander Multicampus Research Program.
Takahashi will work with John Chin, a professor of urban affairs and planning at Hunter College in New York, to complete the NIH-funded study. The team’s community partners are the APAIT Health Center in California and the Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS in New York.