The economy of risk and respect: Accounts by Puerto Rican sex workers of HIV risk taking

Helena Hansen, Maria Margarita Lopez-Iftikhar, Margarita Alegría

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Three-hundred eleven female drug-using sex workers in urban Puerto Rico were asked to describe their last negotiation with a client. They described efforts to protect themselves from many hazards of sex work, including violence, illness, and drug withdrawal. They also described efforts to minimize the stigma and marginalization of sex work by cultivating relationships with clients, distinguishing between types of clients, and prioritizing their role as mothers. Sex workers adopted alternating gender roles to leverage autonomy and respect from clients. Their narratives suggest that sex workers negotiate a world in which HIV is relative to other risks, and in which sexual practices which are incomprehensible from an HIV-prevention perspective are actually rooted in a local cultural logic. Future HIV prevention efforts should frame condom use and other self-protective acts in terms that build upon sex workers' own strategies for understanding their options and modifying their risks.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)292-301
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Sex Research
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Nov 2002

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Gender Studies
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • General Psychology
    • History and Philosophy of Science


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