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HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and risk behaviours in male commercial sex workers in Sydney
  1. Claudia S Estcourt1,3,
  2. Caron Marks1,
  3. Richard Rohrsheim2,
  4. Anne M. Johnson1,
  5. Basil Donovan2,3,
  6. Adrian Mindel1,3
  1. 1Sexually Transmitted Infections Research Centre, University of Sydney, Australia
  2. 2Sydney Sexual Health Centre, Sydney Hospital, GPO Box 1614, Sydney 2001
  3. 3Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Sydney, Australia
  1. Dr Claudia Estcourt Claudia.Escourt{at}


Objectives: To assess prevalence of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), risk behaviours, and demographics in male commercial sex workers (CSWs)/prostitutes in Sydney.

Methods: Retrospective, cross sectional study with two comparison groups. Demographic, behavioural, and morbidity data were analysed from standardised medical records of patients attending a public STI and HIV service in Sydney between January 1991 and March 1998. Two comparison groups were used: female CSWs and non-CSW working homosexual men who attended over the same time.

Results: 94 male CSWs, 1671 female CSWs, and 3541 non-CSW working homosexual men were included. The prevalence of HIV in male CSWs tested (6.5%) was significantly greater than in female CSWs (0.4%, p=0.0001), but less than in non-CSW homosexual men (23.9%, p<0.0001). Genital warts occurred significantly more frequently in male CSWs than in comparison groups. Prevalence of other STIs was similar in all groups. Male CSWs saw significantly fewer clients per week than female CSWs and male and female CSWs used condoms with almost all clients. Male CSWs reported significantly more non-work sexual partners than female CSWs and non-CSW homosexual men and were significantly more likely to have unprotected penetrative sex with their non-work partners than non-CSW homosexual men. Injecting drug use was significantly more frequent in male CSWs than in both comparison groups.

Conclusions: Although male CSWs use condoms with clients, they are more likely to practise unsafe sex with non-work partners (especially women) and inject drugs than female CSWs and non-CSW homosexual men. Some men with HIV are working within the commercial sex industry. Targeted health education to encourage safer drug use and safer sex outside work is needed.

  • male commercial sex workers
  • prostitutes
  • HIV
  • sexually transmitted infections

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