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The Hidden World Of Cambodia's Sex Workers: New Risks, New Hope

The government closed brothels to clamp down on human trafficking. But that move put the country's prostitutes in grave danger.

Steve Sapienza for NPR YouTube

In 2008, Cambodia passed a law that closed its brothels. The goal was to prevent human trafficking. But there was a tragic unintended consequence. It upended a government program designed to distribute condoms and screen for sexually transmitted diseases like HIV at brothels. When the sex workers scattered, there was no easy way to reach them.

Out of the shadows emerged a volunteer organization called SMARTgirl, comprised of active and former sex workers, that has been working to fill the void.

Video journalist Steve Sapienza wanted to see how the outreach and prevention efforts were faring. In February 2014, he traveled to Phnom Penh to produce a documentary, which is premiering on NPR.org.

Reporting for this story was supported by The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.