The prevalence of HIV among female sex workers (FSW) in India is highest in the state of Maharashtra (7.4%). Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra, with a large sex industry mainly consisting of brothels, lags behind in the overall average decline in HIV seen in this state over the last decade. Condoms are now widely used by sex workers through the pro-active role of Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) and many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but many associated risk behaviours remain and contribute to the high HIV prevalence among FSW in Mumbai. This community-based descriptive study was conducted to assess HIV/AIDS-related knowledge and sexual risk behaviours among FSW in Mumbai in 2015. Knowledge was assessed using a ‘cumulative knowledge score’ by taking 18 questions to assess HIV/AIDS knowledge. Sexual behavioural practises among FSW with occasional clients, regular male clients, regular non-paying male partner and non-regular non-paying clients were also assessed separately. Ninety-one FSW working in brothels in Mumbai gave informed consent and were purposively selected to participate in the study. The mean age of the respondents was 32.9, three out of four were illiterate and 62% were either married or had a live-in partner. 85% of the study population reported above average satisfactory score (score≥8) on cumulative knowledge on HIV/AIDS and a nearly 100% used condom both with regular and occasional clients. The study revealed some risk factors among FSW and their regular non-paying partners that need to be urgently tackled. Most of the FSW (86%) use more than one condom during a sexual act, and it was also found out that they tend to engage in risky sexual practices with their regular non-paying partner without condom, thinking that it was not necessary.
Key words: HIV, female sex workers, knowledge, risk behaviour, condom use, India, Mumbai, brothels.
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