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BMC Women's Health

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Prostitution -- Health aspects, Adult child abuse victims, HIV (Viruses), HIV infections -- Diagnosis, Substance abuse


Background: Women who report transactional sex are at increased risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, in the United States, social, behavioral, and trauma-related vulnerabilities associated with transactional sex are understudied and data on access to biomedical HIV prevention among women who report transactional sex are limited.

Methods: In 2016, we conducted a population-based, cross-sectional survey of women of low socioeconomic status recruited via respondent-driven sampling in Portland, Oregon. We calculated the prevalence and, assessed the correlates of, transactional sex using generalized linear models accounting for sampling design. We also compared health outcomes, HIV screening, and knowledge and uptake of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) between women who did and did not report transactional sex.

Results: Of 334 women, 13.6% reported transactional sex (95% confidence interval [CI]: 6.8, 20.5%). Women who reported transactional sex were older, more likely to identify as black, to identify as lesbian or bisexual, to experience childhood trauma and recent sexual violence, and to have been homeless. Six percent (95% CI: 1.8, 10.5%) of women with no adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) reported transactional sex compared to 23.8% (95% CI: 13.0, 34.6%) of women who reported eleven ACEs (P < 0.001). Transactional sex was strongly associated with combination methamphetamine and opiate use as well as condomless sex. Women who reported transactional sex were more likely to report being diagnosed with a bacterial STI and hepatitis C; however, HIV screening and pre-exposure prophylaxis knowledge and use were low.

Conclusions: In a sample of women of low socioeconomic status in Portland, Oregon, transactional sex was characterized by marginalized identities, homelessness, childhood trauma, sexual violence, substance use, and sexual vulnerability to HIV/STI. Multi-level interventions that address these social, behavioral, and trauma-related factors and increase access to biomedical HIV prevention are critical to the sexual health of women who engage in transactional sex.


© The Author(s). 2020 Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.


Originally appeared in BMC Women's Health, volume 20, issue 1. Published by BMC. May be accessed at



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