“It is just a lot to deal with”: A qualitative study exploring the sexual and reproductive health needs of a sample of female sex workers in six locations in Southern Africa

Alexandra Spyrelis, Latifat Ibisomi


The sexual and reproductive health of female sex workers in Southern Africa is particularly important, given the high prevalence of HIV among this population. This paper presents the results of a rapid assessment study conducted prior to the implementation of the “SRHR-HIV Knows No Borders” project in six Southern African countries. Trained interviewers interviewed 20 sex workers across 10 high migration communities. Data were analysed thematically. Participants were well informed about and were able to access preventive methods for STIs and pregnancy, although reports of condom failures were common. While sex workers found SRH services easily accessible, many reported experiences of stigma and discrimination when accessing them. Physical and sexual violence were common occurrences among participants, both from their clients and the police. In addition to addressing stigma within the healthcare and broader community, interventions could provide opportunities for those looking to exit the industry by providing skills training and microfinance support. (Afr J Reprod Health 2022; 26[5]: 72-80).

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