Reproductive healthcare needs of sex workers in rural South Africa: A community assessment

Omara Afzal, Molly Lieber, Ann Marie Beddoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: In the Limpopo province of South Africa, access and availability of women’s health services are limited and many challenges exist for a growing population of transient sex workers. This study was developed to place communities at the forefront to more specifically understand regional barriers and attitudes regarding reproductive health care needs. Objective: To build strong community partnerships, gain understanding of issues in women’s health services, and collaborate with community members to address those issues. Methods: A mixed-methods study approach was used in rural South Africa. Participants were recruited through voluntary interest from a local health clinic performing outreach for migrant female sex workers. We (1) created partnerships and built trust within the community and (2) worked collaboratively to collect both qualitative and quantitative data, using community groups to discuss health needs as well as “knowledge, attitude, and practice” (KAP) surveys. Findings: Ninety-four sex workers participated. The survey data identified risk factors to poor reproductive healthcare outcomes, including limited education, young age at first sexual contact, large number of sexual partners, little knowledge of sexually transmitted infections, distrust in the use of healthcare facilities, and limited use of contraception. Community discussion groups revealed a desire for easier and more accessible healthcare, showing the biggest barriers to care are lack of money and transportation, and safety concerns related to profession, including fear of violence from partner and/or client. With input from civic leaders, public interest, and community outreach groups, a community advisory board was successfully formed for future collaboration. Conclusion: By working with local stakeholders and sex workers, we created an interactive and tailored assessment to discuss healthcare disparities. We helped foster community ownership, setting the stage for future implementation of sustainable and cooperative health programming.

Original languageEnglish
Article number68
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Global Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


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