Little is known about the structure and context of, and the risks encountered in, sex work in the United States.
Objective: This community-based participatory research (CBPR) study explored female sex work and the feasibility of conducting a larger study of sex work within the immigrant Latino community in North Carolina.
Methods: Twelve abbreviated life story interviews were conducted with Latina women who sold sex, other women who sold sex to Latino men, and Latino men who hired sex workers. Content analysis was used to analyze narrative data.
Results: Themes emerged to describe the structure of sex work, motivations to sell and hire sex, and the sexual health-related needs of sex workers. Lessons learned included the ease of recruiting sex workers and clients, the need to develop relationships with controllers and bar owners/managers, and the high compensation costs to reimburse sex workers for participation.
Conclusions: Study findings suggest that it is possible to identify and recruit sex workers and clients and collect formative data within this highly vulnerable and neglected community; the prevention of HIV and STDs is a priority among sex workers, and the need for a larger study to include non-Latino men who report using Latina sex workers, other community insiders (e.g., bartenders), and service providers for Latina sex workers.