The Health of Nevada’s Brothels

Melissa Jones, 22, makes the point clear that without a condom she would not do business.Condoms are the best way to protect against STD's if abstinence is not in the picture. Photo Illustration by Crystelle Rife

Legal brothels in Nevada have been around since the middle of the nineteenth century. The first legal brothel in Nevada dates back all the way to 1902. One of the major differences in today's legal brothels compared to brothels in the past is the presence of sexually transmitted diseases. Are Nevada’s brothels keeping up with safety of employees and customers in Nevada? Marvin Gates, owner of the Sagebrush Mound House says, “Yes, it is safer for both parties to be involved sexually at the house than in their private lives.” The Sagebrush Mound House has been open since 1984; the current owner of the Mound House has been running it since 1995. “In my 16 years, I have never had a customer come back to claim he caught a disease in my house”, states Gates. Sexually transmitted diseases including the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), HIV/AIDS, and Chlamydia did not make an impact on the U.S. population until the 1980's.
As more sexually transmitted diseases have become present in the population, the Nevada State Health Division has changed it's mandatory testing for the girls working in Nevada brothels to keep up. Robert Rife, a former bodyguard at the Mustang Ranch, stated, “When I worked at the house, the girls didn’t worry about STD’s like they do today. There was no threat for AIDs, Chlamydia, or HPV. The worst thing that could be caught was Gonorrhea, and that was able to be cured with a shot of antibiotics”. Rife worked there from 1971 to 1974 on and off, having a lot of time to interact with the girls and to see what they dealt with. The first report of Chlamydia came about in 1984. It was 1981 before HIV was becoming known in the U.S, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. According to Rife, condoms were not mandatory during his time working there. The girls would wash the man’s genitals and check to make sure there were no signs of gonorrhea. This was the only precaution taken during that time. By 1986, HIV testing was mandatory in legal brothels and in 1992 Chlamydia was added to the mandatory testing list. Since then HPV and Chlamydia are on the top of the statistics for sexually transmitted diseases. Today, the testing schedule is the same for all legal brothels and has not changed much from the testing done at the Mustang Ranch in 1971. The only difference is that the girls are now tested for Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Chlamydia, and HIV/AIDS, and Hepatitis. They are tested before being hired, and after they come back from vacation. Also, while the girls are working they are tested weekly for all sexually transmitted diseases by a urine sample except AIDS/HIV and Syphilis, which is only done monthly with a blood test. Pap smears are optional but are not mandatory.
The girls at the houses feel relatively safe but it seems brothels are not as safe as they should be. Michelle Savoy, 24, a former employee of the Bunny Ranch, talks about how safe she felt working at a legal brothel. “ I felt like I walked around with a false confidence that nothing would ever happen to me. I mean I would tell you I felt one hundred percent safe and that all the other girls did too. There were times when I could have caught something. They don’t explain the rules of safe sex to you. You have to figure it out yourself. There is a Bunny Bible but it is not mandatory to read it. You will not get fired for not using a condom. Once the doors are closed who knows what girls are doing?” Savoy makes it sound like there could be many chances for something to go wrong but since the opening of legal brothels in Nevada, there has never been a reported case of HIV or AIDS. When it comes to other diseases, the reports are so low they don’t turn heads. Although, with more than 56,300 people becoming infected each year in the U.S with HIV it seems that without stricter health laws in place, sooner or later someone is going to end up infected. Also, as pap smears cost money and are only optional, HPV is going undetected and untreated. This leads to the possibility of infection and as men show no signs, they would never know they picked it up from a brothel. Melissa Jones, 22, a former employee at the Love Ranch stated, " I did not decide to have a pap smear because it was not mandatory, and it costs extra money. I already had to pay two hundred dollars before working . Than another seventy dollars weekly and one hundred and ten monthly." It seems that it is possible that health regulations at brothels are not strict enough. As the owner of the Sagebrush Mound House said, "Knock on wood.", when he talked about there never being a case of HIV/AIDs at a legal brothel. Also, even though condoms are mandatory there have still been cases where girls have came up positive for STD's.
Although there have never been know cases of AIDS in these brothels there have been reported cases of other STD's. The use of condoms is obviously recommended but not enforced. Without the enforcement there is really no way to guarantee prevention. The spreading of STD's still happens in brothels statewide. It is up to not only the girls, but also the customers to decide if a condom is used. Girls may get extra money for not using a condom and to some it may be worth the risk. For this reason it is not only important that all STD's be tested for but that there should be more initiative in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. A girl could have multiple partners in a night, let alone a week. If she does not know that she has an STD she could spread it to client she has sexual relations with. Many of these men could have wives or partners at home, so the STD is then spread to them. There is no guarantee from owners or girls that a patron will not "catch" anything. Nevada's brothels are safe statistically but it only takes one mistake to spread disease.

"Chlamydia Statistics." CDC (2009): n. pag. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 12 Oct 2011.

"HIV Statistics." U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008): n. pag. Web. 12 Oct 2011. .

"Mustang Ranch." (2010):Wikipedia. Web. 12 Oct 2011.

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Posted on October 11, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I must say that the brothels are in much better condition than what is commonly thought. I do hope to see the dirty and misguided opinions of these places begin to be turned around. As far as the health concerns for the women who work there, I feel the employers should provide them with the heathcare and necessary tests that this job demands. Thank you for this eye opening article.

  2. Worth reading i enjoyed it and i would not say that if i did not mean it. I did after all take the time to find it myself.

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