Prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases and hepatitis C in a survey of female sex workers in the north-East of Italy

Open AIDS J. 2012;6:60-4. doi: 10.2174/1874613601206010060. Epub 2012 Jul 12.


A key issue in the prevention and control of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) is to provide access to health centres, and in diagnosing and treating STD. The present study is aimed to assess the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) in a population of immigrant female sex workers (FSWs). We conducted a cross sectional survey of FSWs working in Verona, North-eastern Italy. Screening test included serology for STDs [including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), syphilis and Hepatitis B virus (HBV)] and hepatitis C virus (HCV).Sixteen out of 345 (4.6%) street FSWs screened during 1999-2007 resulted positive for HIV, 12 (3.5%) were positive for HBsAg, 7 (2.0%) were positive for syphilis serological test, and 3 (0.9%) were positive for HCV. Comparison of the prevalence data between women from Africa (286/345, 82.8%) and other countries showed no statistical difference for HIV infection (R.R. 1.44; 95% CI, 0.34-6.19) and for presence of HBsAg (R.R. 2.27; 95% CI, 0.30-17.24). The positivity of syphilis serologic tests had a lower prevalence among African FSWs (mostly coming from Nigeria) than among FSWs from Eastern Europe (57/345, 16.5%). This difference was statistically significant (R.R. 0.03; 95% CI, 0.00-0.28). The prevalence of HIV infection increased with age (p=0.04, by chi2 for trend analysis), but not with the time worked as sex workers in Italy. Moreover, the presence of any of the screened infections was predictable by both age and earlier time of immigration by way of logistic multivariable regression.The prevalence of HIV and HBsAg was higher in the whole analyzed cohort compared to the general population; prevalence of syphilis was significantly higher in FSWs from Eastern Europe than in FSWs from Africa. HCV prevalence remains low among non intravenous drug abuser FSWs. The data offers a starting point to address targeted intervention that would prevent FSWs acquiring and transmitting STDs.

Keywords: HIV.; Prostitution; sexually transmitted diseases.