Background: Increasing migration of sex workers across East European borders into Turkey has resulted in increased arrests of unregistered sex workers. There is concern regarding the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) such as C. trachomatis in this unregulated group.
Objective: To measure the prevalence of C. trachomatis infection and selected related demographic and behavioral factors among registered and unregistered sex workers in Istanbul, Turkey.
Methods: In a cross-sectional study, the prevalence of C. trachomatis infection was studied by direct fluorescent antibody testing in 248 sex workers: 158 presented for routine medical screening and 90 who were arrested for lack of registration. All subjects were interviewed regarding demographic factors, sexual activity, and antibiotic and drug use.
Results: The overall C. trachomatis prevalence was 12.9% (12.0% registered and 14.4% unregistered). There was a strong association between never using condoms and chlamydia positivity (odds ratio 8.9 [95% confidence interval 3.7 to 21.6]).
Conclusions: The high rate of C. trachomatis among all tested sex workers and the lack of regular condom use, particularly among unregistered sex workers, indicate that there is an urgent need for safe sex education and continued STD screening of unregistered sex workers.
PIP: Accelerating migration of unregistered sex workers from Eastern European countries to Turkey has produced alarm about the potential for increased sexually transmitted disease (STD) transmission. Licensed sex workers are routinely screened for STDs and given medical examinations. However, in Turkey, women with foreign citizenship are ineligible for licensing. This cross-sectional study measured the prevalence of Chlamydia trachomatis in 248 sex workers in Istanbul in 1993. 158 sex workers were enrolled when they presented for routine medical screening, while 90 (from Rumania) were arrested for lack of registration. The overall C. trachomatis prevalence, as detected by direct fluorescent antibody testing, was 12.9% (12.0% among registered and 14.4% among unregistered women); however, the fact that almost half these women reported recent self-prescribed antibiotic use suggests these rates are underestimates. When the analysis was restricted to the 84 women without recent antibiotic use, the C. trachomatis prevalence was 36.9%. There was a significant association between never using condoms and chlamydia infection (odds ratio, 8.9; 95% confidence interval, 3.7-21.6). These findings suggest a need for safe sex education and continued STD screening of sex workers in Turkey. Eligibility for registration, regardless of nationality, should be reconsidered for public health reasons.