HIV risk behaviours of current sex workers attending syringe exchange: The experiences of women in five US cities

Denise Paone, H. Cooper, J. Alperen, Q. Shi, D. C. Des Jarlais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Existing research indicates that sex workers who inject drugs are vulnerable to HIV infection through both risky sexual and drug use practices. This study is the first attempt to learn whether this increased risk persists among current sex workers who participate in syringe exchange programmes (SEPs). With data from interviews with randomly selected participants in five US cities, we compared the demographic characteristics, sexual risk behaviours, drug use practices, emotional and physical health, and SEP utilization patterns of currently active female sex workers who attend SEPs with female SEP participants who do not engage in sex work. Data indicate that women enrolled in SEPs who were currently trading sex typically reported greater HIV risk than women non-sex workers. Current sex workers reported higher levels of risk for every drug risk variable examined in bivariate analysis. They were more likely than other women to inject with a syringe previously used by someone else, to inject daily and to attend shooting galleries; they were less likely to use a condom with their primary partners and to report higher levels of psychological distress than their counterparts. The relationship between sex work status and risky injection practices persisted when potential confounders were controlled for in multivariate alalysis. SEPs can serve a pivotal role in providing sex workers with services and referrals which would help them reduce risk behaviours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-280
Number of pages12
JournalAIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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