Background: Mongolia has very low HIV prevalence despite high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Low-income female sex workers (FSWs) may be at high risk for acquiring and spreading the disease in Mongolia.
Goal: The goal of this study was to assess the prevalence and risk factors associated with the acquisition of HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis among low-income female commercial sex workers in 3 urban centers in Mongolia.
Study design: One hundred seventy-nine low-income FSWs were tested for HIV (enzyme immunoassay) and 132 were tested for syphilis (Treponema pallidum hemagglutination-confirmed), gonorrhea (Gram stain and culture), and trichomoniasis (wet mount microscopy). Questionnaires detailing socioeconomic characteristics, sexual behaviors, drug and alcohol use, general health, and STI/HIV knowledge were completed by 149 women.
Results: No HIV infections were found in 179 women. Of 132 women, 57 (43%), 18 (14%), and 37 (28%) tested positive for syphilis, gonorrhea, and trichomonas, respectively; 88 (67%) tested positive for one or more STIs and 22 (17%) were multiply infected. Socioeconomic factors were correlated to reported condom use and infection status.
Conclusions: Low-income FSWs in Mongolia represent a unique population of very high-risk individuals with very low rates of HIV infection. Interventions targeting this population represent a unique opportunity to prevent a potentially rapid increase of HIV infection in urban Mongolia.