• Article

Patterns of gender-based violence and associations with mental health and HIV risk behavior among female sex workers in Mombasa, Kenya


Roberts, S. T., Flaherty, B. P., Deya, R., Masese, L., Ngina, J., McClelland, R. S., ... Graham, S. M. (2018). Patterns of gender-based violence and associations with mental health and HIV risk behavior among female sex workers in Mombasa, Kenya: A latent class analysis. AIDS and Behavior. DOI: 10.1007/s10461-018-2107-4


Gender-based violence (GBV) is common among female sex workers (FSWs) and is associated with multiple HIV risk factors, including poor mental health, high-risk sexual behavior, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Prior studies have focused on GBV of one type (e.g. physical or sexual) or from one kind of perpetrator (e.g., clients or regular partners), but many FSWs experience overlapping types of violence from multiple perpetrators, with varying frequency and severity. We examined the association between lifetime patterns of GBV and HIV risk factors in 283 FSWs in Mombasa, Kenya. Patterns of GBV were identified with latent class analysis based on physical, sexual, or emotional violence from multiple perpetrators. Cross-sectional outcomes included depressive symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, disordered alcohol and other drug use, number of sex partners, self-reported unprotected sex, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in vaginal secretions, and a combined unprotected sex indicator based on self-report or PSA detection. We also measured HIV/STI incidence over 12 months following GBV assessment. Associations between GBV patterns and each outcome were modeled separately using linear regression for mental health outcomes and Poisson regression for sexual risk outcomes. Lifetime prevalence of GBV was 87%. We identified 4 GBV patterns, labeled Low (21% prevalence), Sexual (23%), Physical/Moderate Emotional (18%), and Severe (39%). Compared to women with Low GBV, those with Severe GBV had higher scores for depressive symptoms, PTSD symptoms, and disordered alcohol use, and had more sex partners. Women with Sexual GBV had higher scores for disordered alcohol use than women with Low GBV, but similar sexual risk behavior. Women with Physical/Moderate Emotional GBV had more sex partners and a higher prevalence of unprotected sex than women with Low GBV, but no differences in mental health. HIV/STI incidence did not differ significantly by GBV pattern. The prevalence of GBV was extremely high in this sample of Kenyan FSWs, and different GBV patterns were associated with distinct mental health and sexual risk outcomes. Increased understanding of how health consequences vary by GBV type and severity could lead to more effective programs to reduce HIV risk in this vulnerable population.