The Role of Sex Work Pay in Moderating the Effect of Mobile Phone Solicitation on Condom Practices: An Analysis of Female Sex Workers in India

HSOA J AIDS Clin Res STDs. 2017;4(1):008. doi: 10.24966/ACRS-7370/100008. Epub 2017 Mar 28.


Mobile phones remain a largely untapped resource in the ongoing challenge to address Female Sex Worker (FSW) health, including HIV prevention services, in India. An important step towards designing effective mobile phone-based initiatives for FSWs is clarifying the contextual influences of mobile phone solicitation on sexual risk behavior. In this paper, we extend previously identified associations between mobile phone solicitation and condom practices by examining whether this association is moderated by sex work pay and offer key considerations for future research and implementation. Specifically, we conducted an analysis among 589 Indian FSWs, where FSWs who did not use mobile phones to solicit clients had the lowest mean sex work pay (INR 394/ USD 6.54) compared to FSWs who used both mobile and traditional strategies (INR 563/ USD 9.34). Our analysis indicate low paid FSWs who used mobile phones concurrently with traditional strategies had 2.46 times higher odds of inconsistent condom use compared to low paid FSWs who did not use mobile phones for client solicitation. No such effect was identified among high paid FSWs. These findings also identified group level differences among FSWs reporting different mobile phone solicitation strategies, including violence, client condom use and HIV status. Our results indicate that low pay does moderate the association between mobile phone solicitation and condom practices, but only among a sub-set of low paid FSWs. These findings also demonstrate the utility of classification by different mobile phone solicitation strategies for accurate assessment of sexual risk among mobile phone soliciting FSWs. In turn, this paves the way for novel approaches to utilize mobile phones for FSW HIV prevention. We discuss one such example, a mobile phone-based rapid screening tool for acute HIV infection targeting Indian FSWs.

Keywords: Female sex work; HIV prevention; Income; India; Mobile phones; Sexual risk.