Streets, drugs, and the economy
of sex in the age of AIDS

Weeks MR, Grier M, Romero-Daza N,
Puglisi-Vasquez MJ, Singer M
Institute for Community Research,
Hartford, CT 06106, USA
Women Health 1998; 27(1-2):205-29


Drug addicted women whose economic and social base is urban streets face limited options for income generation and multiple dangers of predation, assault, arrest, and illness. Exchanging sex for money or drugs offers one important source of income in this context. Yet the legal, social, and safety risks associated with these exchanges reduce the likelihood of regular safer sex practices during these encounters, thereby increasing the risk of HIV infection. Such conditions lead women engaged in sexual exchanges for money to varied and complex responses influenced by multiple and often contradictory pressures, both personal and contextual. Street-recruited women drug users in an AIDS prevention program in Hart-ford, Connecticut reported a range of condom use when engaging in sex for money exchanges. This paper explores their differences by ethnicity, economic resources, and drug use, and analyzes these and other factors that impact on street risks through sexual income generation. Surveys and in-depth interviews with drug-addicted women sex workers describe their various approaches to addressing multiple risks on the streets and suggest significant effort by women in these contexts to avoid the many risks, including HIV infection.

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