Online Program

Influence of traumatic experiences on female sex workers' mental health in Burkina Faso

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 8:50 a.m. - 9:10 a.m.

Charles W. Cange, PhD, MSc, Sociology, Anthropology & Health Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD

Female sex workers (FSW) are regularly exposed to risks of psychological and physical trauma.  There remains substantial gaps in programming for FSWs, given HIV prevalence has been little impacted by ongoing programming for  FSW in recent years.


This design permits an in-depth exploration of the contexts and social perceptions of violence and mental health impacts on FSW. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were conducted simultaneously and individuals were allowed to participate in one or both activities. 


A total of 696 FSW were recruited and enrolled into the study in Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso.  77.4% of respondents reported experiencing physical violence after initiating sex work.  Forty percent of participants (40.9%) reported rape or forced sex, the majority of which occurred after initiating sex work (73.0%).  Perpetrators: regular and new clients, intimate partners, strangers and uniformed officers.

Some 41.8% of quantitative participants reported ever having feelings of depression and 90.6% of these reported experiencing these emotions within the last 3 months.


In some cases, the male perpetrator used physical force to force nonconsensual sex. Forced nonconsensual sex was often without condom use.  Several participants described methods to avoid violence and to promote social protection among FSW, such as “beeping” each other via mobile phone.   Participants reported feelings of depression, alienation and disillusionment.  Our findings suggest that stigma, physical and sexual abuse  are prevalent among FSW.  Within this context of sex work, lifetime experiences of physical and sexual violence were highly correlated with self-reported mental health symptoms.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Diversity and culture
Occupational health and safety
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify the Influence of Traumatic Events, by the end of the term, on Sex Workers’ Mental Health and Suicide Intentions

Keyword(s): Women and HIV/AIDS, Sex Workers

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified given that I have conducted research in the area of HIV/AIDS stigma reduction for the past 2 years and have given multiple presentations on this topic in the US and in Sub-Saharan Africa. Trained at the EHESS, University of Paris and Ponts and Chaussees School (Noisy-le-Grand, France), I also translated and back-translated all the data from French to English. I was certified in Psychotrauma and Resilience at Hebrew University, Jerusalem in 2010.
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.