236933 Psychosocial distress of female sex workers in China: A qualitative investigation

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yan Hong, PhD , Department of Social and Behavioral Health, Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health, College Station, TX
Chen Zhang , School of Rural Public Health, Department of Social and Behavioral Health, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Xiaoming Li , Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Xiaoyi Fang, PhD , Institute of Developmental Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
Bo Wang, PhD , Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI
Introduction: Commercial sex creates specific mental health concerns for female sex workers (FSWs), but most existing studies on this population have focused on their HIV/STI risks. Data are limited regarding their psychosocial wellbeing; data are further scarce in developing countries. China is one of such countries where flourishing commercial employs millions of FSWs. The current study will provide a thick description of the FSWs in China and the major psychosocial stressors in their work and life. Method: Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with 36 FSWs recruited from community outreach in Guangxi, China. All interviews were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts and field notes were uploaded to Atlas ti for analysis. All qualitative data were analyzed using thematic content analysis methods. Results: Our data revealed that FSWs have suffered emotional trauma in different levels, they need to hide their true occupation from their friends and families, make higher income to support families and unstable working conditions. They also need to endure not only threats of arrests or other police harassment but also abusive clients and violent partners. A sense of helplessness and hopelessness prevails among these women, and most adopt maladaptive coping strategies such as substance abuse. Conclusion: Psychosocial problems are prevalent among FSWs in China, which are mainly attributed to severe stigma attached to commercial sex and a lack of legal protection of these women. Decriminalization of commercial sex is urgently needed. Social interventions to bridge gender inequalities and create more employment opportunities for women are also necessary.

Learning Areas:
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1.Assess the mental health status of female sex workers (FSWs) through qualitative analysis methodology. 2.Examine the context in which psychosocial distress is prevalent among FSWs. 3.Explore culturally appropriate structural interventions to reduce stigma against female sex workers and improve their psychosocial wellbeing.

Keywords: Women and HIV/AIDS, Vulnerable Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified because I am fully involved in program implementation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.