HIV Community Link’s Shift Calgary Program Wins Prize for Innovation and Leadership

Alisha OstbergNews, sex work

HIV Community Link is one of the Bentley Awards 2017 winners with our Shift Program, which for the past 10 years has provided support, outreach and education for adults involved in sex work. First place was awarded to Planned Parenthood Ottawa.

As part of their legacy, Helen and Fred Bentley generously support sexual health innovation and leadership through the Helen and Fred Bentley Awards of Excellence. The award is coordinated by Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights (Action Canada) and comes with a monetary prize to support ongoing efforts in the field. The Bentley Awards recognize and publicize outstanding and achievements by Action Canada’s Associate Organizations.

“We work across the spectrum of sex work to enhance safety, wellness and stability for those actively working, and provide support to exit sex work if this is an identified goal,” said Andrea Carter, Director of Programs for HIV Community Link.

Shift has a harm reduction and rights based approach to sex work. This means that the safety and human rights of sex workers are our focus. We recognize that sex work is a choice for many in the industry, and we respect the rights of adults to make this choice. We also recognize that not everyone has active choice in sex work. For some, outside forces such as poverty or exploitation can force people into situations where they don’t have control. Shift’s services will meet you where you are at – whether you want to stay in the industry, get out of the industry, or anything in-between.

In 2016-2017, Shift saw 129 registered clients and 193 unique sex worker contacts through street outreach. “The demand for services is growing rapidly,” says Carter. “Intakes increased by 33% over the previous year.” Of newly registered clients, primary reasons for service access were 28% housing, 21% financial support and 21% employment/education. Advocacy services also address stigma and discrimination experienced by sex workers.

“Part of our success is in the partnerships we have and we’re seeing real impacts in the community, including increased access to health and community resources, improved physical and emotional health, and increased skills to improve safety,” says Carter.

“The selection committee received a strong number of applications this year and it wasn’t an easy decision but HIV Community Link’s Shift Program stood out,” said Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. “The way that HIV Community Link has been able to address individual needs and partner with health services, police services, sex worker groups and allies is what really sets them apart.”

ACTION CANADA FOR SEXUAL HEALTH & RIGHTS is a progressive, pro-choice charitable organization committed to advancing and upholding sexual and reproductive health and rights in Canada and globally. For more information, visit

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