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Adele Weiner

Social workers often come in contact with women, men, and adolescents who use prostitution as a means of survival. Individuals may earn their entire income in this manner. They may use it to supplement low earnings or welfare benefits, or they may exchange sex for drugs, shelter, or the protection of pimps. Violence, drug use, arrest, and transmission of sexually transmitted disease (STD) or HIV are constant risks of prostitution. Those who engage in prostitution, whether as prostitutes or as clients, represent the entire spectrum of American society. This entry discusses a number of psychosocial issues relevant to understanding the lives of women who engage in prostitution and implications for providing social work supports and services.


The risk of HIV infection looms large among male, female, and transgender sex workers in India. Several individual, sociocultural, and structural-environmental factors enhance the risk of HIV infection among sex workers by restricting their ability to engage in safer sexual practices with clients and/or intimate partners. While most HIV prevention programs and research focus on visible groups of women sex workers operating from brothels (Pardasani, 2005) and traditional sex workers, for example, Devadasis (Orchard, 2007); there is a whole subgroup of the sex worker population that remains invisible within HIV prevention programs, such as the male, female, and transgender sex workers operating from non-brothel-based settings. This paper provides an overview of the different types and contexts of sex work prevalent in Indian society, discusses the factors that increase a sex worker’s risk of HIV infection, describes the varied approaches to HIV prevention adopted by the existing HIV prevention programs for sex workers, discusses the limitations of the HIV prevention programs, and concludes with implications for social work practice and education.