Foster care has been associated with increased HIV risk behaviors among youth, yet long-term association with HIV infection has not been examined. This study explored the associations between foster placement, victimization, mental health, onset of sex work and HIV infection among highly vulnerable female sex workers. 562 drug-involved African American women were enrolled into an intervention study to increase health services utilization and reduce HIV risk. Seventeen percent reported a history of foster placement. Foster history was associated with significantly lower educational attainment, higher victimization, and more severe mental health problems. Women with foster histories reported significantly earlier entry into paid sex work, with some 62% active in the sex trade before age 18. Multivariate analyses found that foster care was independently associated with HIV seropositivity, and that early sex work partially mediated this association. The potential long-term health vulnerabilities associated with foster placement are understudied and warrant additional research.