Sustained high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections among female sex workers in Cambodia: high turnover seriously challenges the 100% Condom Use Programme

BMC Infect Dis. 2008 Dec 12;8:167. doi: 10.1186/1471-2334-8-167.


Background: Cambodia's 100% Condom-Use Programme (CUP), implemented nationally in 2001, requires brothel-based female sex workers (FSWs) to use condoms with all clients. In 2005, we conducted a sexually transmitted infection (STI) survey among FSWs. This paper presents the STI prevalence and related risk factors, and discusses prevalence trends in the context of the 100% CUP in Cambodia.

Methods: From March-May, 1079 FSWs from eight provinces consented to participate, provided specimens for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhoea testing, and were interviewed. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to determine factors associated with STIs. STI prevalence was compared with data from the 1996 and 2001 STI surveys.

Results: Most FSWs were young (55% aged 15-24) and new to sex work (60% had worked 12 <or= months). Consistent condom use with clients was reported by 80% of FSWs, but only 38% of FSWs always used condoms with sweethearts or casual partners. Being new to sex work was the only factor significantly associated with "any STI" (OR = 2.1). Prevalence of syphiliwas 2.3%; chlamydia, 14.4%; gonorrhoea, 13.0%; and any STI, 24.4%. Prevalence of each STI in 2005 was significantly lower than in 1996, but essentially the same as prevalence observed in 2001.

Conclusion: New FSWs were found to have substantially higher prevalence than those with longer experience. The percent of FSWs who used condoms consistently was high with clients but remained low with non-paying sex partners. Because of the high turnover of FSWs, the prevention needs of new FSWs should be ascertained and addressed. Despite 100% CUP implementation, the prevalence of STIs among FSWs was the same in 2005 as it was in 2001. Limited coverage and weak implementation capacity of the programme along with questionable quality of the STI services are likely to have contributed to the sustained high prevalence. The programme should be carefully reviewed in terms of intensity, quality and coverage.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cambodia / epidemiology
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Safe Sex
  • Sex Work*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / diagnosis
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult