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HIV Burden High Among Female Sex Workers Globally

Last Updated: March 15, 2012.

Among female sex workers in low-income and middle-income countries, the burden of HIV is disproportionately high, compared with other similar-aged women, according to a study published online March 14 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

THURSDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- Among female sex workers in low-income and middle-income countries, the burden of HIV is disproportionately high, compared with other similar-aged women, according to a study published online March 15 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

To assess the burden of HIV among female sex workers compared with other women of reproductive age, Stefan Baral, M.D., from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues reviewed the literature for studies between January 2007 and June 2011 measuring the prevalence or incidence of HIV among female sex workers in low-income and middle-income countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The analysis included 102 articles and surveillance reports, representing 99,878 female sex workers across 50 countries.

The researchers found that the overall HIV prevalence was 11.8 percent, and the pooled odds ratio for HIV infection was 13.5. Wide interregional ranges were seen for both the prevalence and odds ratios. A total of 30.7 percent of sex workers were HIV-positive and the odds ratio for infection was 11.6 in a subset of 26 countries with medium and high background HIV prevalence.

"Although data characterizing HIV risk among female sex workers is scarce, the burden of disease is disproportionately high. These data suggest an urgent need to scale up access to quality HIV prevention programs. Considerations of the legal and policy environments in which sex workers operate and actions to address the important role of stigma, discrimination, and violence targeting female sex workers is needed," the authors write.

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