Objective: To qualitatively explore potential mechanisms that may confer heightened risk for HIV infection among survivors of sex trafficking in India.
Methods: Case narratives of 61 repatriated women and girls who reported being trafficked into sex work and were receiving services at an NGO in Mysore, India, were reviewed. Narratives were analyzed to examine potential sources of HIV risk related to sex trafficking.
Results: Participants were aged 14-30 years. Among the 48 women and girls tested for HIV, 45.8% were HIV positive. Narratives described very low levels of autonomy, with control exacted by brothel managers and traffickers. Lack of control appeared to heighten trafficked women and girls' vulnerability to HIV infection in the following ways: use of violent rape as a means of coercing initiation into sex work, inability to refuse sex, inability to use condoms or negotiate use, substance use as a coping strategy, and inadequate access to health care.
Conclusion: Sex trafficked women and girls lack autonomy and are rendered vulnerable to HIV infection through several means. Development of HIV prevention strategies specifically designed to deal with lack of autonomy and reach sex-trafficked women and girls is imperative.