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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Touro Researchers Improve Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for High-risk and Hard-to-Reach Populations in Cambodia

The Touro University California (TUC) Center for Global Health Research and our Cambodian partners at KHANA, the largest national HIV organization, are assessing the needs of at-risk populations in Cambodia in order to develop innovative prevention programming.

Dr. Carinne Brody ( Photo for submission II & III)
[Photo: Dr. Carinne Brody]

Despite great achievements in reducing the prevalence of HIV, eliminating new HIV infections remains a challenge in Cambodia. Cambodia is one of the few countries in the world that has reversed their HIV epidemic from generalized to concentrated, now confined mainly to individuals who engage in high risk behaviors such as sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users and transgender people.

Since 2008, the passage and implementation of the ‘brothel ban’ which criminalized brothel-based sex work may be making the situation more complicated since as a result, the sex trade has gone underground and more women have moved into indirect sex work as entertainment workers. Female entertainment workers (FEWs) include women who work in venues such as karaoke bars, beer gardens and massage parlors and have sex with non-romantic partners in exchange for meals, gifts, and cash. In a one year period national researchers found a significant decrease in brothel based sex workers and an increase in sex workers at all types of entertainment venues. This recently published study aim to increase our understanding of entertainment work and better tailor services to their needs:

Factors associated with induced abortion among female entertainment workers: A cross-sectional study in Cambodia

This is the first study to examine potential factors associated with induced abortion among FEWs. We found high rates of pregnancies that end in induced abortions among FEWs in Cambodia. Surprisingly, induced abortion for those who engage in sex work was not significantly associated with either the number of commercial partners or inconsistent condom use in the commercial relationships. Evidence from qualitative research with Cambodian FEWs found that while condom use was generally high with commercial partners, non-commercial or romantic relationships were not characterized as risky and typically did not involve condom use. Therefore, we conclude that unprotected sex was more likely to be occurring between FEWs and there non-commercial romantic partners. Integrated interventions to improve sexual reproductive health among these vulnerable women should be tailored to their lived experiences.

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