Objectives: To determine the extent of HIV infection among female commercial sex workers (CSW), to identify risk factors, and to provide baseline data for developing and targeting prevention measures.
Subjects and methods: A total of 968 female CSW were enrolled in a cross-sectional study from August 1995 to October 1996. Information was obtained from confidential face-to-face interview, physical examination, and laboratory testing.
Results: A total of 65.5% of female CSW reported inconsistent condom use. Overall seroprevalence was 5.2%. The highest seroprevalence (9.5%) was detected in An Giang province, a border area adjacent to Cambodia. Out of seven HIV isolates in An Giang province, six were characterized as Thai subtype E and one as subtype B. Multiple logistic regression analysis showed an independent significant association between HIV seroprevalence and the following: age < or = 30 years [odds ratio (OR), 5.1; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.7-15.2]; high frequency of sex (> 20 times per week; OR, 13.5; 95% CI, 3.6-50.2); inconsistent condom use (OR, 2.8; 95% CI, 1.01-8.0; sign of genital ulcers (OR, 18.1; 95% CI, 1.8-182); venereal warts (OR, 9.0; 95% CI, 2.5-33.0); brothels as sex venue (OR, 7.0; 95% CI, 2.0-24.3); and working at the border area (OR, 5.1; 95% CI, 2.4-11.0). Brothels as work-sites were significantly related to inconsistent condom use and the socioeconomic background of clients. Only 0.5% of CSW reported injecting drug use.
Conclusions: Female CSW at brothels who reported inconsistent condom use and ulcerous sexually transmitted disease, particularly in the border area with Cambodia, had greater risk of HIV infection. Brothels were more frequently used as sex venues in the border area and were more likely to be visited by occasional clients who were difficult to access. Drug use among female CSW in this region was rare. The development of prevention measures should be based on these results.