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Journal Article


White RH, Park JN, Galai N, Decker MR, Allen ST, Footer KHA, Sherman SG. Int. J. Drug Policy 2020; 84: e102858.


(Copyright © 2020, Elsevier Publishing)






BACKGROUND: Street-based female sex workers (FSW) often cycle in and out of sex work engagement. For many FSW, substance use plays a critical role in sex work entry, continuation, and interruptions. We examined individual, interpersonal, and structural correlates of short-term interruptions of sex work among street-based FSW in an urban environment.

METHODS: Data were from 205 FSW in Baltimore, MD, USA followed as part of an observational prospective cohort study between April 2016-Februrary 2018. The primary outcome was short-term interruptions of sex work (stopping sex work) over the past 3 months, asked every 3 months over a 12-month follow-up. We assessed the relationship between individual, structural, and interpersonal factors for each woman's prior visit and current visit with short-term sex work interruptions. We employed modified Poisson regression with Generalized Estimating Equations to identify correlates of short-term interruptions of sex work.

RESULTS: Eighty-two women (40%) reported stopping sex work over the past 3 months at least once during follow-up. Past drug treatment (adjusted incidence rate ratio [aIRR] 1.40; 95% CI: 1.06-1.86) and not having used drugs in the past 3 months (aIRR 2.70; 95% CI: 1.96-3.71) were positively associated with short-term interruption to sex work. Past intimate partner violence (IPV) (aIRR 0.52; 95% CI: 0.31-0.86) and current homelessness (aIRR 0.61; 95% CI: 0.41-0.91) were negatively associated with short-term interruption.

RESULTS were inconclusive for the association between recent prostitution arrest and short-term interruptions to sex work (IRR 0.86; 95% CI: 0.40-1.86).

CONCLUSION: The study suggests that similar to other professions, women leave sex work for numerous reasons. Substance use cessation and participation in drug treatment programs may contribute to short-term interruptions of sex work by reducing reliance on sex work for income among street-based FSW. Structural vulnerabilities including homelessness and IPV are driving continued street-based sex work, speaking to the need for holistic structural interventions.

Language: en


Substance use; Intimate partner violence; Arrest; Female sex workers; Homelessness; Women who use drugs


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