Mental health and HIV risk differs by co-occurring structural vulnerabilities among women who sell sex

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Female sex workers (FSW) experience many structural vulnerabilities (SV; e.g., violence, economic insecurity) which contribute to increased risk of HIV and mental distress. However, little research has examined how SV co-occur to shape HIV risk, and none have studied mental distress. Among FSW (n = 385) in Baltimore, Maryland, latent class analysis of five binary indicators (housing insecurity; financial dependence on others; client-perpetrated physical or sexual violence; food insecurity) determined classes of SV and differential HIV risk behavior and mental health outcomes. A 3-class model fit the data best: minimal SV (i.e., low probabilities of all indicators); material needs (i.e., housing, food insecurity); and high SV (i.e., high probability of all indicators). Compared to minimal SV, high SV and material needs had significantly greater adjusted probability of drug injection and poorer adjusted depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mental distress scores. The high SV class had significantly higher probability of reporting condomless sex with clients compared to material needs and minimal SV. Results show the deleterious effect of co-occurring SV on HIV risk behaviors among FSW with particular emphasis on co-occurring food and housing insecurities. This is the first study of co-occurring SV on mental health outcomes in this key population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-214
Number of pages10
JournalAIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • HIV infections
  • Sex workers
  • food insecurity
  • housing
  • mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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