Female sex workers’ empowerment strategies amid HIV-related socioeconomic vulnerabilities in Cameroon

Charles W. Cange, Matthew LeBreton, Karen Saylors, Serge Billong, Ubald Tamoufe, Pamella Fokam, Stefan Baral

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Research has consistently demonstrated that female sex workers use a variety of empowerment strategies to protect one another and their families. This study examines the strategies Cameroonian sex workers employ to do so. In-depth interviews and focus-group discussions were conducted with 100 sex workers. Coded texts were analysed for recurring themes. Sex workers reported being concerned with physical violence and sexual assault and demands from authorities for bribes to avoid fines and/or imprisonment. Women described strategies such as ‘looking out for’ each other when faced with security threats. Many reported staying in sex work to provide for their children through education and other circumstances to allow them to lead a better life. Sex worker mothers reported not using condoms when clients offered higher pay, or with intimate partners, even when they understood the risk of HIV transmission to themselves. Concern for their children’s quality of life took precedence over HIV-related risks, even when sex workers were the children’s primary carers. A sex worker empowerment programme with a focus on family-oriented services could offer an effective and novel approach to increasing coverage of HIV prevention, treatment and care in Cameroon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1053-1065
Number of pages13
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 3 2017


  • Cameroon
  • HIV prevention
  • empowerment
  • female sex work
  • motherhood
  • social cohesion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Female sex workers’ empowerment strategies amid HIV-related socioeconomic vulnerabilities in Cameroon'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this