Objective: A cross-sectional community-based study was conducted among brothel-based sex workers of West Bengal, eastern India, to study the prevalence of HIV and associated risk factors.
Methods: Unlinked anonymous HIV testing was performed on 2076 sex workers. Of these, 558 were interviewed using a pre-tested questionnaire to study their risk factors.
Results: Overall HIV sero-prevalence was 5.9%. All infections were HIV-1, except that four sex workers from Kolkata were infected with HIV-2. Surprisingly, HIV infection was much higher (12.5%) in younger sex workers (age < or =20 years) compared with older age groups (5.4%) (P=0.002; odds ratio 2.40, 95% CI: 1.29-4.38).
Conclusions: This could be associated with larger areas of cervical ectopy of younger sex workers who are subjected to repeated trauma during sexual intercourse, facilitating higher HIV transmission. Behavioral factors may increase a young sex worker's risk of acquiring HIV infection, including professional immaturity with clients, which might lead to more unprotected sex. HIV status was associated with other sexually transmitted infection in the previous year but was not associated with literacy status, daily income, duration of sex work, number of clients entertained per day, entertaining clients outside a brothel (in a hotel), and reported condom use.