Diversity among clients of female sex workers in India: Comparing risk profiles and intervention impact by site of solicitation

Dipak Suryawanshi, Tarun Bhatnagar, Sucheta Deshpande, Weiwei Zhou, Pankaj Singh, Martine Collumbien PLOS One, 2013; Vol 8, issue 9 Download publication (open access)

Using data from three states in India, this study maps the sexual networks of female sex workers' (FSW) clients and compares their HIV risk profile according to different 'pick-up places'. It found that:

  •  clients who visit less visible FSW, soliciting sex from home via phone or agents had more extensive sexual networks (including casual female partners and male partners) as well as more risky sex acts (anal intercourse with men and FSW)
  • clients of brothel-based sex workers reported the fewest number and categories of partners, least anal sex, and lowest condom use
  • exposure to messages on sexually transmitted infections was lowest among men frequenting brothels, and highest among men soliciting less visible sex workers
  • exposure had significant impact on consistent condom use, including among clients of home-based sex workers and among men soliciting other more hidden FSW

The paper concludes that commercial sex is still largely unprotected, contributing to current debates within the UNDP about HIV and the decriminalisation of sex work. It argues that as the sex industry grows more diffuse and clients' sexual networks more extensive, a greater focus on HIV prevention among clients of sex workers is required. 

Learn more about the need to disaggregate sex work according to a range of categories and distinctions in Holly Prudden's Learning Lab for STRIVE. 

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