Obligations of motherhood in shaping sex work, condom use, and HIV care among Swazi female sex workers living with HIV

Afr J AIDS Res. 2019 Sep;18(3):254-257. doi: 10.2989/16085906.2019.1639521. Epub 2019 Jul 23.


Parental obligations influence sexual behaviour among female sex workers (FSW) and may serve as a risk or protective factor for HIV acquisition. How these obligations affect behaviours beyond HIV prevention, including HIV care, is understudied. We analysed 25 interviews conducted with 11 mothers who sell sex and are living with HIV, and 4 key informants as part of a larger study examining the positive health, dignity, and prevention needs of FSW in eSwatini. Despite awareness of HIV reinfection, FSW initiated sex work and engaged in condomless sex due to financial pressures of providing for children. While women attributed having condomless sex to their obligations as a provider, motherhood also served as motivation to engage in HIV care. Further, FSW described children as a source of support in HIV care. Children reminded mothers to take their medications, prepared food to take with medications, and assisted with travel to the clinic.

Keywords: HIV; HIV care; female sex workers; parenthood; sex work.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Eswatini
  • Female
  • HIV
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Parenting
  • Safe Sex / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Work / psychology
  • Sex Workers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Unsafe Sex / statistics & numerical data*