HIV/AIDS risk among female sex workers who use crack in Southern Brazil

Rev Saude Publica. 2008 Oct;42(5):830-7. doi: 10.1590/s0034-89102008000500007.


Objective: To understand the social context of female sex workers who use crack and its impact on HIV/AIDS risk behaviors. METHODODOLOGICAL PROCEDURES: Qualitative study carried out in Foz do Iguaçu, Southern Brazil, in 2003. Twenty-six in-depth interviews and two focus groups were carried out with female commercial sex workers who frequently use crack. In-depth interviews with health providers, community leaders and public policy managers, as well as field observations were also conducted. Transcript data was entered into Atlas.ti software and grounded theory methodology was used to analyze the data and develop a conceptual model as a result of this study.

Analysis of results: Female sex workers who use crack had low self-perceived HIV risk in spite of being engaged in risky behaviors (e.g. unprotected sex with multiple partners). Physical and sexual violence among clients, occasional and stable partners was widespread jeopardizing negotiation and consistent condom use. According to health providers, community leaders and public policy managers, several female sex workers who use crack are homeless or live in slums, and rarely have access to health services, voluntary counseling and testing, social support, pre-natal and reproductive care.

Conclusions: Female sex workers who use crack experience a plethora of health and social problems, which apparently affect their risks for HIV infection. Low-threshold, user-friendly and gender-tailored interventions should be implemented, in order to increase the access to health and social-support services among this population. Those initiatives might also increase their access to reproductive health in general, and to preventive strategies focusing on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders* / complications
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Crack Cocaine*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk-Taking
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Offenses
  • Sex Work* / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Vulnerable Populations
  • Young Adult


  • Crack Cocaine