Sex Transm Infect 78:271-273 doi:10.1136/sti.78.4.271
  • Original Article

Part time female sex workers in a suburban community in Kenya: a vulnerable hidden population

  1. M P Hawken1,3,
  2. R D J Melis1,4,
  3. D T Ngombo1,
  4. K Mandaliya1,
  5. L W Ng’ang’a3,
  6. J Price2,
  7. G Dallabetta2,
  8. M Temmerman1
  1. 1International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  2. 2Family Health International, Arlington, USA
  3. 3Centre for Respiratory Diseases Research, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya
  4. 4Medicus Mundi, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Mark Hawken, International Centre for Reproductive Health, PO Box 91109, Mombasa, Kenya;
  • Accepted 8 May 2002


Background: In sub-Saharan Africa, female sex workers (FSWs) are a vulnerable high risk group for the acquisition and transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV.

Objectives: To study parameters of sexual behaviour and knowledge of STI and HIV, to describe health seeking behaviour related to STI, and to measure the prevalence of gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV-1, to provide baseline data for targeted STI and HIV prevention interventions.

Methods: In a cross sectional survey with snowballing recruitment, between February and March 2000, 503 self identified FSWs in a suburb in Mombasa, Kenya, were interviewed with a structured questionnaire and screened for gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV-1.

Results: The mean number of sexual partners in the previous week was 2.8 (SD 1.6). The mean number of non-regular clients and regular clients in the previous week was 1.5 (1.0) and 1.0 (0.9) respectively. The median weekly income from sex work was $US15. A total of 337 (67%) women had an alternative income in the informal sector. 146 (29%) and 145 (45%) never used a condom with a client and non-paying partner respectively. The prevalence of gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and syphilis was 1.8%, 4.2%, and 2.0% respectively. The overall HIV-1 seroprevalence was 30.6%.

Conclusions: There is a large need for intensive STI and HIV prevention interventions in part time FSW.