Barriers to Health and Social Services for Street-Based Sex Workers

Homelessness, poverty, drug abuse and violent victimization faced by street-based women sex workers create needs for a variety of health and social services, yet simultaneously serve as barriers to accessing these very services. The present study utilized interview (n = 586) and focus group (n = 25) data to examine the service needs and associated barriers to access among women sex workers in Miami, Florida. Women most often reported acute service needs for shelter, fresh water, transportation, crisis intervention, and drug detoxification, as well as long-term needs for mental and physical health care, drug treatment, and legal and employment services. Barriers included both structural (e.g., program target population, travel costs, office hours, and social stigma) and individual (e.g., drug use, mental stability, and fear) factors. Bridging these gaps is tremendously important from a public health perspective given the disease burden among this population. Recommendations include service staff training, outreach, and promising research directions.