High rates of Unintended Pregnancies among Young Women Sex Workers in Conflict-affected Northern Uganda: The Social Contexts of Brothels/Lodges and Substance Use

Putu Duff, Godfrey Muzaaya, Katherine Muldoon, Sabina Dobrer, Monika Akello, Josephine Birungi, Kate Shannon


This study aimed to examine the correlates of unintended pregnancies among young women sex workers in conflict-affected northern Uganda. Data were drawn from the Gulu Sexual Health Study, a cross-sectional study of young women engaged in sex work. Bivariable and multivariable logistic regression was used to examine the correlates of ever having an unintended pregnancy. Among 400 sex workers (median age=20 years; IQR 19-25), 175 (43.8%) reported at least one unintended pregnancy. In multivariable analysis, primarily servicing clients in lodges/brothels [Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR= 2.24; 95% Confidence Interval: 1.03-4.84)], hormonal contraceptive usage [AOR=1.68; 95%CI 1.11-2.59] and drug/alcohol use while working [AOR= 1.64; 95%CI 1.04-2.60] were positively correlated with previous unintended pregnancy. Given that unintended pregnancy is an indicator of unmet reproductive health need, these findings highlight a need for improved access to integrated reproductive health and HIV services, catered to sex workers‘ needs. Sex work-led strategies (e.g., peer outreach) should be considered, alongside structural strategies and education targeting brothel/lodge owners and managers. (Afr J Reprod Health 2017; 21[2]: 64-72).

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