Migrant Latinas and brothel sex work in Belize: sexual agency and sexual risk

J Cult Divers. 2007 Spring;14(1):26-34.


Sexual risk variability among brothel-based sex workers has been shown to be influenced by fear of HIV transmission, and by culture-bound gender norms as well as economic need, yet the effect of sexual agency on impoverished Latina sex workers' risk behavior with their clients remains poorly characterized. We investigated perceived health beliefs regarding susceptibility to/severity of HIV/AIDS, and sexual agency regarding barriers to condom use, benefits of unprotected sex, and risk-reduction behavior with clients among a sample of 33 brothel workers in Belize. Although 77% of participants felt at risk for HIV, only 30% always use condoms and 43% did not refuse unprotected sex with clients. Participants' narrative explanations for unprotected sex emphasized that clients'preferences often overrode brothel workers fear of HIV, and that the health benefits of using condoms with clients were often weighed against the social benefits of unprotected sex. Implications for brothel-based condom promotion programs and further research are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Belize
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Fear / psychology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Hispanic or Latino / education
  • Hispanic or Latino / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Narration
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Poverty / ethnology
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sex Work / ethnology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transients and Migrants / education
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology*
  • Unsafe Sex* / ethnology
  • Unsafe Sex* / prevention & control