Tricks of the trade: sexual health behaviors, the context of HIV risk, and potential prevention intervention strategies for male sex workers

J LGBT Health Res. 2008;4(4):195-209. doi: 10.1080/15574090903114739.


Sex work is a significant risk for HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) among men who have sex with men (MSM); however, there is a dearth of knowledge about how to reduce risk in this group. MSM sex workers (N = 32) completed a semistructured qualitative interview and a close-ended quantitative assessment. Analyses focused on themes relevant to intervention development. Participants reported an average of 46 male sex partners in the prior 12 months; 31% of participants were HIV-infected. Male sex workers frequently used substances during sex and had elevated levels of psychological distress. Qualitative findings suggest that trauma-informed mental health and substance abuse treatment, ready access to HIV/STI testing and treatment and condoms/informational materials, support groups to address isolation/loneliness, skill-building for risk reduction with sex partners, and paid incentives as add-ons to effective behavior change interventions may be valuable intervention components. Targeting consumers of paid/exchanged sex may assist with changing community norms regarding the practice of transactional sex. Multipronged interventions to decrease sexual risk taking among male sex workers would also benefit from addressing the unique socioeconomic and legal needs of this population.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data
  • Emotions
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sex Work / psychology
  • Sex Work / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Young Adult