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enlarge+ "On The Track"

 

Pam Vessels worked with the Waikiki Health Center as a HIV/AIDS educator on the streets of Waiikiki from 1988 to 1998, a period when the sex industry was booming - paralleling the US and Japan economies.

Selling sex on the most happening part of Waikiki's main street, Kalakaua Avenue, was known as being 'On the Track'. The 100 to 150 women working this area were considered high end sex workers and the hours were long and hard.

Pam, affectionately dubbed "The Condom Lady" of Waikiki, passed out close to half a million condoms, organized numerous community building and educational activities, advocated against police harassment and abuse, and produced a monthly newsletter called "On The Track," a newsletter exclusively for sex workers. Chock full of humor and sass, it creatively delivered sex safety information, tips on where to get affordable and safe abortions as well as more mundane stuff like the best places to get your high-heel shoes repaired. Since sex workers on the track in Waikiki were mostly from the continental US and often started in the business when quite young, the knowledge contained in this newsletter was frequently the first time they were given the information most relevant to their profession.

 

It paid off: Honolulu had the lowest HIV/AIDS rates amongst sex workers in the US for cities of comparable size. And it kept the high heels looking good!

After the first few years on the street, Pam began to be able to anticipate its 'seasons'. One in particular was marked by media sweeps - each May and November, TV stations would do a story on prostitution to boost their ratings. Pam would warn the sex workers about the coming onslaught of the swooping (or snooping) media vultures, and warned them to to stay away from her if they saw a cameraperson behind her.

to see an article on the media sweep excerpted from the May 1993 issue of "On The Track"