Mapping and Size Estimates of Female Sex Workers in Cameroon: Toward Informed Policy for Design and Implementation in the National HIV Program

PLoS One. 2019 Feb 26;14(2):e0212315. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0212315. eCollection 2019.


Background: Due to high HIV prevalence among Female Sex Workers (FSWs) in Cameroon (36.5%), this population is especially vulnerable to HIV acquisition and transmission nationwide. Though being prioritized in the national HIV response, it would be relevant to generate statistics on the number of FSWs in order to guide HIV interventions among FSWs. Our objective was to estimate the size of FSWs within hotspots of Cameroon.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted from September-November 2015 in selected cities in Cameroon: Bafoussam, Bamenda, Bertoua, Buea, Douala, Kribi, Limbé, and Yaoundé. A programmatic mapping was used, consisting of interviews with secondary key informants (KI) to identify hotspots of FSWs and their respective estimated numbers. Validation of size estimates was done by interviews with FSW at each hotspot. Size estimations in the councils mapped were extended to others not mapped using a Poisson regression model.

Results: A total of 2,194 hotspots were identified: Douala (760), Yaoundé (622), Bamenda (263), Bafoussam (194), Kribi (154), Bertoua (140), Limbé (35), and Buea (26). The estimated total number (range) of FSWs was 21,124 (16,079-26,170), distributed per city as follows: Douala 7,557 (5,550-9,364), Yaoundé 6,596 (4,712-8,480), Bafoussam 2,458 (1,994-2,923), Bamenda 1,975 (1,605-2,345), Kribi 1,121 (832-1,408), Bertoua 1,044 (891-1,198), Buea 225 (185-266), and Limbé 148 (110-148). The variability of estimates among cities was also observed within the councils of each city. The national predicted estimate of FSW population was 112,580 (103,436-121,723), covering all councils of Cameroon. An estimate of 1.91% (112,580/5,881,526; 0.47%-3.36%) adult female population in Cameroon could be sex workers.

Conclusion: There are considerable numbers of FSW in major cities in Cameroon. There is a need to prioritize interventions for HIV prevention toward this population in order to limit the burden of HIV sexual transmission nationwide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cameroon / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • HIV / isolation & purification*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Health Plan Implementation / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Workers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This study was conducted through the financial support of the World Bank Group. The founder had no role in designing, implementing, analysing and in the decision for publication.