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Influence of Peer Support on HIV/STI Prevention and Safety Amongst International Migrant Sex Workers: A Qualitative Study at the Mexico-Guatemala Border

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BackgroundMigrant women engaged in precarious employment, such as sex work, frequently face pronounced social isolation alongside other barriers to health and human rights. Although peer support has been identified as a critical HIV and violence prevention intervention for sex workers, little is known about access to peer support or its role in shaping health and social outcomes for migrant sex workers. This article analyses the role of peer support in shaping vulnerability and resilience related to HIV/STI prevention and violence among international migrant sex workers at the Mexico-Guatemala border. MethodsThis qualitative study is based on 31 semi-structured interviews conducted with international migrant sex workers in the Mexico-Guatemala border communities of Tapachula, Mexico and Tecún Umán and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.ResultsPeer support was found to be critical for reducing social isolation; improving access to HIV/STI knowledge, prevention and resources; and mitigating workplace violence, particularly at the initial stages of migration and sex work. Peer support was especially critical for countering social isolation, and peers represented a valuable source of HIV/STI prevention knowledge and resources (e.g., condoms), as well as essential safety supports in the workplace. However, challenges to accessing peer support were noted, including difficulties establishing long-lasting relationships and other forms of social participation due to frequent mobility, as well as tensions among peers within some work environments. Variations in access to peer support related to country of work, work environment, sex work and migration stage, and sex work experience were also identified. ConclusionsResults indicate that peer-led and community empowerment interventions represent a promising strategy for promoting the health, safety and human rights of migrant sex workers. Tailored community empowerment interventions addressing the unique migration-related contexts and challenges faced by migrant sex workers should be a focus of future community-based research, alongside promotion of broader structural changes.
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Febres-Cordero B, Brouwer KC, Rocha-Jimenez T, Fernandez-Casanueva C, Morales-Miranda S, et al. (2018) Influence of peer support on HIV/STI prevention and safety amongst international migrant sex workers: A qualitative study at the Mexico-Guatemala border. PLOS ONE 13(1): e0190787.
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Influence of Peer Support on HIV/STI Prevention and Safety Amongst International Migrant Sex Workers: A Qualitative Study at the Mexico-Guatemala Border
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