perception, health, ill-health, female sex worker, Laos
GLOBAL HEALTH ACTION; Vol.6; 1-8
Background: Female sex workers (FSWs) are vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other types of health problems and they also encounter socio-economic difficulties. Efforts to develop effective health intervention programs for FSWs have been hampered by a lack of information on why FSWs do not seek or delay seeking treatment for STIs. To further understand their reasons, our study applied a qualitative approach to explore perceptions of health and ill-health among FSWs in Savannakhet province in Laos. Methods: Fifteen in-depth interviews were conducted with FSWs in Savannakhet province. Latent content analysis was used for analysis. Results: Sex workers' definitions of health and wealth are intertwined. Thus, good health was described as strongly related to wealth, and wealth was needed in order to be healthy. This is explained in two sub-themes: health is necessary for work and income and ill-health creates social and economic vulnerability. Conclusions: Female sex workers' beliefs and perceptions about health and ill-health were dominated by their economic need, which in turn was influenced by expectations and demands from their families.