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Drug-Using Sex Workers in the Streets of Valencia: Risk in Context

NCJ Number
Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse Volume: 1 Issue: 4 Dated: 2002 Pages: 1-27
Carme Ripoll Alantes M.D.; Jose Salazar Fraile M.D.; J. Bryan Page Ph.D.
Peter L. Myers Ph.D.
Date Published
This ethnographic study conducted in Spain presents a characterization of different patterns of sex work in interaction with drugs and the risk behaviors that accompany them.
Female intravenous drug users (IDUs) have a multitude of strategies for obtaining money and/or drugs besides sex work. However, sex work is the principal means for female drug users to obtain drugs or money to buy drugs. The principal objective of this ethnographic study, carried out in a barrio in Valencia, Spain was to characterize factors that affect sex work and their influence on risk practices. The study, which began in 1996 and ended in 1997, describes female sex workers who use illegal drugs, some who inject drugs, and some who do not. The criteria used for analysis was whether or not the interviewed women injected the drugs that they consumed. Observational studies were combined with in-depth interviews with sex workers where information was obtained on sociodemographics, family history, health history, sexual practices, and consumption of drugs. Two patterns were encountered among female sex workers who use drugs: (1) women who come from a low socioeconomic and educational background tend to report dysfunctional family or compromised family structure in their backgrounds and (2) women whose backgrounds involved mid-level education and socioeconomic status had families of orientation that tended to be intact and functional.. Patterns of sex work according to the type of drug and the route of consumption encountered include: (1) intravenous, exclusive user of heroin and (2) snorted heroin, smoked or injected cocaine, and speedball shooters. These background factors include specific aspects of family of orientation and choices of drugs. The distribution of sex workers among the drug choice factors and the household background factors does not clearly show relationships between two kinds of factors. The choice of drug and route of ingestion appear to have a stronger relationship with the sex worker’s lifestyle than background factors. These findings constitute a description of how female IDUs in Valencia go about the management of their day-to-day sex trade careers. This study also showed that women clearly sought friendship and companionship first, and their choice of drugs came second. A larger scale study is recommended. References