Migration status, work conditions and health utilization of female sex workers in three South African cities

J Immigr Minor Health. 2014 Feb;16(1):7-17. doi: 10.1007/s10903-012-9758-4.


Intersections between migration and sex work are underexplored in southern Africa, a region with high internal and cross-border population mobility, and HIV prevalence. Sex work often constitutes an important livelihood activity for migrant women. In 2010, sex workers trained as interviewers conducted cross-sectional surveys with 1,653 female sex workers in Johannesburg (Hillbrow and Sandton), Rustenburg and Cape Town. Most (85.3%) sex workers were migrants (1396/1636): 39.0% (638/1636) internal and 46.3% (758/1636) cross-border. Cross-border migrants had higher education levels, predominately worked part-time, mainly at indoor venues, and earned more per client than other groups. They, however, had 41% lower health service contact (adjusted odds ratio = 0.59; 95% confidence interval = 0.40-0.86) and less frequent condom use than non-migrants. Police interaction was similar. Cross-border migrants appear more tenacious in certain aspects of sex work, but require increased health service contact. Migrant-sensitive, sex work-specific health care and health education are needed.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Workers / statistics & numerical data*
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Vulnerable Populations / ethnology
  • Vulnerable Populations / statistics & numerical data*
  • Zimbabwe / ethnology