, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 343-351

A Qualitative Exploration of Female Sex Work in Tijuana, Mexico

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Abstract

Previous research has documented high rates of STDs and increased risk of HIV infection among female sex workers (FSWs) in Mexico; however, little is known about the sexual risk behaviors of this population. The purpose of this study was to explore work history, context of sex work, sexual risk practices, client characteristics, attitudes toward condoms, and potential barriers to condom use in a sample of FSWs in Tijuana, Mexico. Analysis of qualitative data from 25 FSWs revealed that most women entered the sex trade at a young age (M = 23 years), primarily as a result of financial need. Forty percent were single mothers supporting children. Women worked an average of 6–7 days per week; work shifts ranged from 4 to 13 hr per day. Clients were both Mexican and foreign (mostly American and Asian), and ranged in age from 18 to 80 years. Positive aspects of the job included flexible work hours and good income. Negative aspects of sex work included risks associated with physical assault, diseases, and unwanted pregnancies. Most clients did not want to use a condom and many offered additional money for unprotected sex. FSWs did not like to use condoms because they were perceived as uncomfortable. Most FSWs did not negotiate the use of condoms, had a low knowledge regarding the proper use of condoms, and were reticent to report their own unsafe sex practices. These results suggest the need to develop culturally appropriate safer sex interventions for FSWs in Mexican border cities.