, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 65-78
Date: 17 Nov 2012

HIV/STI Risk Among Venue-Based Female Sex Workers Across the Globe: A Look Back and the Way Forward

Abstract

Female sex workers (FSWs) continue to represent a high-risk population in need of targeted HIV prevention interventions. Targeting environmental risk factors should result in more sustainable behavior change than individual-level interventions alone. There are many types of FSWs who operate in and through a variety of micro- (eg, brothels) and macro-level (eg, being sex-trafficked) contexts. Efforts to characterize FSWs and inform HIV prevention programs have often relied on sex work typologies or categorizations of FSWs by venue or type. We conducted a systematic search and qualitatively reviewed 37 published studies on venue-based FSWs to examine the appropriateness of sex work typologies, and the extent to which this research has systematically examined characteristics of different risk environments. We extracted information on study characteristics like venue comparisons, HIV/STI prevalence, and sampling strategies. We found mixed results with regards to the reliability of typologies in predicting HIV/STI infection; relying solely on categorization of FSWs by venue or type did not predict seroprevalence in a consistent manner. Only 65 % of the studies that allowed for venue comparisons on HIV/STI prevalence provided data on venue characteristics. The factors that were assessed were largely individual-level FSW factors (eg, demographics, number of clients per day), rather than social and structural characteristics of the risk environment. We outline a strategy for future research on venue-based FSWs that ultimately aims to inform structural-level HIV interventions for FSWs.