Health care access and migration experiences among Venezuelan female sex workers living in the Dominican Republic

Paulino-Ramírez et al.


To identify sexual risk behaviors and barriers to sexual and reproductive health care (SRH) among Venezuelan female sex workers living in the Dominican Republic.


This was a mixed-methods study using four focus group discussions (FGDs) and a cross-sectional quantitative survey with Venezuelan migrant female sex workers. The study was conducted from September through October 2021 in two urban areas (Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata) in the Dominican Republic. Information collected from the FGDs was analyzed using thematic content analysis, and quantitative data were analyzed using univariate descriptive statistics. Data analysis was conducted from 30 November 2021 to 20 February 2022.


In all, 40 Venezuelan migrant female sex workers with a median (range) age of 33 (19-49) years participated in the FGDs and survey. The FDGs identified barriers to SRH services, including immigration status and its implications for formal employment and health access, mental wellbeing, quality-of-life in the Dominican Republic, navigating sex work, perceptions of sex work, SRH knowledge, and limited social support. Findings of the quantitative analysis indicated that most participants reported feeling depressed (78%), lonely/isolated (75%), and having difficulty sleeping (88%). Participants reported an average of 10 sexual partners in the past 30 days; 55% had engaged in sexual practices while under the influence of alcohol; and only 39% had used a condom when performing oral sex in the past 30 days. Regarding AIDS/HIV, 79% had taken an HIV test in the past 6 months, and 74% knew where to seek HIV services.


This mixed-methods study found that nationality and social exclusion have a multilayered influence on migrant female sex workers, sexual risk behaviors, and access to health care. Recommendations for effective evidence-based interventions to address sexual health knowledge need to be implemented to address risky sexual behaviors, improve access to SRH, and reduce affordability barriers.

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