SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Sex workers in San Francisco can now carry condoms without worrying it would become evidence against them if they get arrested. The practice among law enforcement agencies has been permanently banned because of concerns it was creating a public health hazard.

Using condoms as evidence has been a courtroom tool utilized by prosecutors in many large cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and New York.

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But according to San Francisco Human Rights Commission Director Theresa Sparks, the use of that evidence resulted in prostitutes stopping from carrying them in order to protect themselves from the law, rather than sexually transmitted diseases.

Sparks said condoms are one of the best tools in the fight against HIV.

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“We’d suggest that people do carry condoms for health reasons,” she said. “Human Rights Watch published a study on this particular practice on four major urban areas—collecting or photographing condoms and anecdotally, STDs were going up and possibly HIV infections were going up.”

After pressure from human rights organizations and health officials, a decision was made by the District Attorney George Gascon.

“We decided to do a six-month pilot, where we would not use evidence of condoms in our cases involving prostitution. I primarily wanted to make sure that was not going to have a negative impact on public safety, especially in those communities that are really impacted by heavy prostitution activities,” he said.

Gascon said the ban is permanent after finding the change did not impact public safety, nor did it hurt efforts to prosecute.

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