Purpose of review
This article reviews the current state of the epidemiological literature on female sex work and HIV from the past 18 months. We offer a conceptual framework for structural HIV determinants and sex work that unpacks intersecting structural, interpersonal, and individual biological and behavioural factors.
Our review suggests that despite the heavy HIV burden among female sex workers (FSWs) globally, data on the structural determinants shaping HIV transmission dynamics have only begun to emerge. Emerging research suggests that factors operating at macrostructural (e.g., migration, stigma, criminalized laws), community organization (e.g., empowerment) and work environment levels (e.g., violence, policing, access to condoms HIV testing, HAART) act dynamically with interpersonal (e.g., dyad factors, sexual networks) and individual biological and behavioural factors to confer risks or protections for HIV transmission in female sex work.
Future research should be guided by a Structural HIV Determinants Framework to better elucidate the complex and iterative effects of structural determinants with interpersonal and individual biological and behavioural factors on HIV transmission pathways among FSWs, and meet critical gaps in optimal access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care for FSWs globally.