Reaching young women who sell sex: methods and results of social mapping to describe and identify young women for DREAMS impact evaluation in Zimbabwe

Tarisai Chiyaka, Phillis Mushati, Bernadette Hensen, Sungai Chabata, James R Hargreaves, Sian Floyd, Isolde J Birdthistle, Frances M Cowan, Joanna R Busza

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Abstract

Young women (aged 15-24) who exchange sex for money or other support are among the highest risk groups for HIV acquisition, particularly in high prevalence settings. To prepare for introduction and evaluation of the DREAMS programme in Zimbabwe, which provides biomedical and social interventions to reduce adolescent girls' and young women's HIV vulnerability, we conducted a rapid needs assessment in 6 towns using a "social mapping" approach. In each site, we talked to adult sex workers and other key informants to identify locations where young women sell sex, followed by direct observation, group discussions and interviews. We collected data on socio-demographic characteristics of young women who sell sex, the structure and organisation of their sexual exchanges, interactions with each other and adult sex workers, and engagement with health services. Over a two-week period, we developed a "social map" for each study site, identifying similarities and differences across contexts and their implications for programming and research. Similarities include the concentration of younger women in street-based venues in town centres, their conflict with older sex workers due to competition for clients and acceptance of lower payments, and reluctance to attend existing services. Key differences were found in the 4 university towns included in our sample, where female students participate in diverse forms of sexual exchange but do not identify themselves as selling sex. In smaller towns where illegal gold panning or trucking routes were found, young women migrated in from surrounding rural areas specifically to sell sex. Young women who sell sex are different from each other, and do not work with or attend the same services as adult sex workers. Our findings are being used to inform appropriate intervention activities targeting these vulnerable young women, and to identify effective strategies for recruiting them into the DREAMS process and impact evaluations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0194301
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume13
Issue number3
Number of pages12
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • HIV Infections/prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Program Evaluation
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sex Work/psychology
  • Sex Workers/psychology
  • Social Support
  • Sociological Factors
  • Young Adult
  • Zimbabwe

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