Characteristics, sexual behaviour and riskfactors of female, male and transgender sex           workers in South Africa   ...
Background•   There is no estimation of sex worker numbers in South    Africa     – little is known about the characterist...
Background•   In 1998, HIV prevalence amongst different female sex worker    groups in South Africa ranged between 46% and...
Background•   Female condoms are one of few female-controlled HIV    prevention technologies available, with some female s...
Methods•   Self-identified female, male and transgender sex workers in    Hillbrow, Sandton, Rustenburg and Cape Town were...
Results
Results (socio-demographic)•   Participants were a mean 30 years old•   Just over half of female (53.7%; 878/1636) and mal...
Results       (Sexual behaviour, condom & alcohol-use)•   Median number of clients in the week preceding study    enrolmen...
Results       (Sexual behaviour, condom & alcohol-use)•   In univariate analysis, having fewer dependants was associated  ...
Results        (Female condoms)•   Just less than half of female participants had ever used a    female condom (446/1 006)...
Discussion•   Sex work was the major livelihood strategy adopted by the    study populations:     – more than 40% had been...
Discussion•   Less than half (44.3%) of female participants had ever used a    female condom.     – Of these, three quarte...
Discussion•   It is of concern that males were 2.9 times more likely, and    transgender people 2.4 times more likely than...
Discussion•   Sex workers in the Sandton, Rustenburg and Cape Town    sites were significantly more likely to engage in un...
Limitations•   The study included self-reported data only and was based on    a non-random sampling design.     – Surveys ...
Conclusions•   In conclusion, sex workers remain at high risk of HIV and    other STIs in South Africa.•   This risk has b...
Acknowledgements•   Funding for this study was provided by UNFPA and Atlantic    Philanthropies.•   We would like to thank...
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Characteristics, sexual behaviour and risk factors of female, male and transgender sex workers in South Africa

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Presentation by Marlise Richter, at the National Sex Work Symposium, in the session 'What we know: evidence-based peer reviewed knowledge on sex work' (Boksburg, 22 August 2012)

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Characteristics, sexual behaviour and risk factors of female, male and transgender sex workers in South Africa

  1. 1. Characteristics, sexual behaviour and riskfactors of female, male and transgender sex workers in South Africa National Sex Work Symposium 22 August 2012 Johannesburg Marlise Richter, Matthew Chersich, Marleen Temmerman, Stanley Luchters International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University African Centre for Migration & Society, Wits University Marlise.richter@gmail.com
  2. 2. Background• There is no estimation of sex worker numbers in South Africa – little is known about the characteristics and health needs of sex workers in the country• While some studies have focused on female sex workers in urban centres in South Africa, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban and to a lesser extent along transport routes in KwaZulu-Natal and a gold mining area in the North West Province, these studies are mostly a decade old.• Male and transgender sex workers - very little information available on these populations in Africa.
  3. 3. Background• In 1998, HIV prevalence amongst different female sex worker groups in South Africa ranged between 46% and 69%.• In a 2004-2005 Durban study, 775 women at high risk for HIV infection – 78.8% of whom self-identified as sex workers – were screened, and 59.6% found to be HIV- positive.• More recent estimates of HIV burden in sex workers in South Africa are not available.• A recent meta-analysis emphasised the considerable risk that HIV poses to sex workers – They have about a 13-fold higher risk of acquiring HIV infection compared to other women of reproductive age in low- and middle- income countries.
  4. 4. Background• Female condoms are one of few female-controlled HIV prevention technologies available, with some female sex workers even using them without clients’ knowledge.• Acceptability of female condoms has been demonstrated in South Africa, as has female condom reuse.• Sex work activists have advocated for the greater availability of female condoms in sex work settings, with little success.• In 2010-2011, the National Department of Health distributed: – around 5 million female condoms (target: 6 million) – half a billion male condoms distributed (target: 1 billion)
  5. 5. Methods• Self-identified female, male and transgender sex workers in Hillbrow, Sandton, Rustenburg and Cape Town were interviewed by trained sex worker research assistants during May–September 2010.• University-based researchers collaborated with the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and Sisonke Sex Worker Movement.• Women, men and transgender sex workers (defined as ‘having exchange of sexual services for financial reward’) 18 years and above were eligible for participation.• Questionnaires were translated from English into isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans and Setswana.• The study was approved by the University of the Witwatersrand Human Research Ethics Committee (Protocol number H100304).
  6. 6. Results
  7. 7. Results (socio-demographic)• Participants were a mean 30 years old• Just over half of female (53.7%; 878/1636) and male (55.3%; 48/87) participants, and just more than a third of transgender people (37.9%; 22/58), were born in South Africa.• A third of females (555/1626), a quarter of males (21/87) and 15.8% (9/57) of transgender participants noted that they had a ‘husband/permanent partner/boyfriend or girlfriend’ (P=0.003).• Females were responsible for a median of 4 adult and/or child dependents – double that of male or transgender participants (P<0.001).• Age of sex work debut was similar across the genders, an average of about 24 years: females 24.2 (SD=5.3), males 23.6 (SD=4.5) and transgender 24.3 years (SD=5.0).• More than 40% of all participants had been in sex work for more than five years
  8. 8. Results (Sexual behaviour, condom & alcohol-use)• Median number of clients in the week preceding study enrolment: – 12 for females – 10 for males – 8 for transgender • More women had penetrative sex with last client (92.1%; 1 522/1653) than males (81.6%; 71/87; P<0.001) or transgender people (81.4%; 48/59; P<0.001) • Women were less likely to have unprotected sex: • only 5.5% (82/1 498) of women had unprotected sex with last client in contrast to • 27.5% (19/69; P=0.01) of men, and • 20.0% (9/45; P<0.001) of transgender people.• In a multivariate analysis of factors associated with unprotected anal/vaginal sex with last clients, males were 2.9 times (AOR, 95%CI=1.6-5.3; P<0.001) more likely, and transgender people 2.4 times (AOR, 95%CI 1.1-4.9; P=0.021) more likely than females to have unprotected sex.
  9. 9. Results (Sexual behaviour, condom & alcohol-use)• In univariate analysis, having fewer dependants was associated with unprotected sex.• Sex workers in Cape Town were 5.5 times (AOR, 95%CI 3.0-10.0; P<0.001), those in Rustenburg 2.9 times (AOR, 1.6- 5.3; P<0.001) and those in Sandton 2.7 times (AOR 95%CI 1.4-5.1; P=0.04) more likely to engage in unprotected sex than their counterparts in Hillbrow.• About a fifth of females (284/1566), a third (16/54) of transgender people and over 40% (34/82) of males reported daily binge drinking.• More than 40.0% of females (651/1603) were drunk during sex with last client in comparison to 59.7% of males (49/82) and 66.1% (37/56) of transgender people.• Participants who reported daily or weekly binge drinking were 2.1 fold (95%CI 1.2-3.7; P=0.011) more like than those who never engaged in binge drinking, to have unprotected sex.
  10. 10. Results (Female condoms)• Just less than half of female participants had ever used a female condom (446/1 006).• Of these, – close to a third (116/413) “liked” female condoms, and – almost half (189/413) “liked them a lot” (data not shown). Only 7.5% (31/413) disliked female condoms”, with – 77/413 (18.6%) being neutral. • Among those female participants who did not use female condoms and provided reasons for non-use, – a fifth each noted that they had never been given female condoms (99/560), – did not know how to use them (111/560) or – did not like them (129/560).• A tenth each noted either they are unfamiliar with female condoms (66/560) or that clients preclude use (47/560).•
  11. 11. Discussion• Sex work was the major livelihood strategy adopted by the study populations: – more than 40% had been in the industry for more than five years, approximately two thirds were full-time sex workers, while over a third had no other work experience prior to entering sex work.• When comparing full-time sex workers’ income with data from Statistics South Africa on monthly earnings by occupation, sex workers in this study were earning more than clerks, sales and services, crafts and related trades, and up to six times more than domestic workers• This is pertinent for some ideology-based health and social interventions aiming to ‘rehabilitate’ sex workers or focus solely on ‘exit programmes’
  12. 12. Discussion• Less than half (44.3%) of female participants had ever used a female condom. – Of these, three quarters were in favour of female condoms.• Studies in China and Cambodia have shown that female condom promotion with female sex workers have increased its acceptability and use, while a study with female sex workers in rural Mpumalanga showed female condoms to be highly cost-effective.• As a female-controlled HIV prevention strategy, this should be a vital component of sex work interventions.
  13. 13. Discussion• It is of concern that males were 2.9 times more likely, and transgender people 2.4 times more likely than female sex workers to engage in unprotected sex. – This could be a reflection of the dearth of programmes focusing on males and transgender people within the sex industry in South Africa or the general lack of information on anal sex, and is an area for action.• Of all participants, 27.0% had unprotected sex when engaged in anal intercourse with last client – the most risky sex act for acquiring HIV and other STIs.• Public health interventions with female, male and transgender sex workers and their clients should emphasise the risks associated with anal sex and ensure that condoms and lubrication are accessible and feely available within the sex industry.
  14. 14. Discussion• Sex workers in the Sandton, Rustenburg and Cape Town sites were significantly more likely to engage in unprotected sex than those situated within Hillbrow.• Hillbrow had the only sex work-specific clinic and mobile outreach clinical services for sex workers in South Africa at the time of the study. – A cadre of sex work peer educators disseminate information and condoms within hotels and clubs from where sex workers operate, while a male community health worker provides HIV/STI education and referrals to clients within bars and nightclubs.• This model should be duplicated in other areas of sex work concentration in South Africa.
  15. 15. Limitations• The study included self-reported data only and was based on a non-random sampling design. – Surveys were, however, conducted by trained peer interviewers, which may have reduced the social-desirability bias in respondents’ answers.• Some data were missing on questionnaires• Almost all peer interviewers were female, which may have impacted on the number of male and transgender participants approached for participation.• Selected research sites included two urban centres and one semi-rural site adjacent to a mine and were purposively selected, based on the presence of sex worker advocacy groups and peer education work.• Although we selected three cities aiming to obtain data on diverse sex work settings, these findings may not apply to other sex work areas in South Africa.
  16. 16. Conclusions• In conclusion, sex workers remain at high risk of HIV and other STIs in South Africa.• This risk has been acknowledged by South African HIV/AIDS policies and sex work-specific programmes proposed since the first National AIDS Plan in 1994, but yet little action has been taken.• The ‘National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS, STIs and TB, 2012-2016’ contains a number of sex work-specific health and non-discrimination provisions, and should be implemented as a matter of urgency.
  17. 17. Acknowledgements• Funding for this study was provided by UNFPA and Atlantic Philanthropies.• We would like to thank the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and the Sisonke Sex Worker Movements for guidance and logistical support, and the research assistants for hard work during data collection.• The technical and logistical support of the African Centre for Migration & Society and the Centre for Health Policy, Wits University and their students was key in the conceptualisation and development of the project, as well as the assistance of the Sex Work Project, Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute within Hillbrow.• Special thanks for the input and support of Dudu Ndlovu, Jo Vearey, Dianne Massawe, Carolin Kueppers, Tom Considine, Fiona Scorgie, Elsa Oliveira, Agnieszka Flak, Marc Lewis, Ingrid Palmary, Richard Steen, Gerrit Maritz, Francois Venter and Ziad El-Khatib.  

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