The social organization of commercial sex work in Moscow, Russia

Sex Transm Dis. 2003 Jan;30(1):39-45. doi: 10.1097/00007435-200301000-00009.


Background: Increased poverty, unemployment, and migration place the Russian population at high risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A qualitative study was undertaken to clarify the organization of sex work and describe the likely contributions of different types of sex work to disease transmission.

Goal: The goal of the study was to describe the social-organizational patterns of sex work in Moscow, Russia.

Study design: Four qualitative data collection methods were used: semistructured telephone interviews, semistructured face-to-face individual and group interviews with key informants, systematic and unobtrusive naturalistic observations, and geomapping.

Results: Intermittent, truck stop, and railway station sex workers may be the most important groups in the dissemination of STIs. Sex work is widely disseminated throughout the city. Identifiable positions in the social organization of street sex work include pimps, assistant female pimps, guards, drivers, "indicators," the sex workers themselves, and recruitment "pluckers."

Conclusion: The Moscow sex market may be an adjustive response of the social system to the economic pressures in Russia. Sex work in Moscow has great potential for disseminating STIs throughout Russia and beyond. Understanding of these issues may enhance the impact of STI prevention programs.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Moscow / epidemiology
  • Sex Work*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Social Support*