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Violence, not STDs, main concern of young West African sex workers.

Focus group discussions were held with 16 peer educators of young sex workers from seven West African nations over a three-month period by a UNAIDS researcher in Cote d'Ivoire. An unexpected finding was that STDs were not the primary concern of the sex workers. Instead, they were preoccupied with and visibly traumatised by social stigma and physical and emotional violence, which are a daily feature in their lives. They perceive the risk of violence to be greater from their regular sexual partners or "'boyfriends" than from paying clients. Even the threat of violence or abandonment by these "boyfriends" seriously disempowers them from negotiating HIV preventive behaviours with them. The violence includes forced sex, physical and emotional abuse and the threat of being abandonned. The non-use of condoms with their regular sexual partners, in the absence of other contraception, results in frequent abortions. The fact that violence prevents sex workers and other vulnerable women from adopting safe sexual behaviours, even if they are highly motivated to do so, is often overlooked. Action is needed to break the silence surrounding gender and sexual-based violence and its role in limiting the effectiveness of condom promotion and HIV prevention efforts [1].

[1.] Sullivan J. Domestic violence as perceived by sex workers in West Africa. Abstract WePeG6941. AIDS 2002, Barcelona, July.

Marge Berer

Editor, Reproductive Health Matters, London, UK. E-mail: RHMjournal@compuserve.com
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Title Annotation:HIV/AIDS
Author:Berer, Marge
Publication:Reproductive Health Matters
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Nov 1, 2002
Words:228
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