Objective: To analyze the extent by which Chinese female sex workers (FSWs) serve as vectors of HIV/AIDS to an otherwise spared general population and to describe the implications of centering efforts solely on this high-risk group.
Goal: By using the example of FSWs in China, we intend to demonstrate the role that structural factors can have on HIV transmission above and beyond individual high-risk behaviors.
Study Design: Literature review of years 1980–2006.
Results: Analysis of the literature suggests that major determinants of HIV transmission amongst FSWs in China include sociopolitical context, gender, work environment and finally, risky sexual behaviors.
Conclusions: Chinese FSWs live in a specific sociopolitical context that shapes their capacities to engage in safe-sex practices. Focusing on FSWs as vectors of HIV/AIDS epidemic in China neglects the larger context that endangers all members of society and blames an already vulnerable population.