Trends in sexual behaviour and the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV among drug-using prostitutes, Amsterdam 1986–1992

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Abstract

Objective

To determine trends in commercial sexual risk behaviour among drug-using prostitutes in Amsterdam after local and national prevention campaigns began in 1987.

Design

A subgroup of 281 drug-using prostitutes was selected from a comprehensive, open cohort study of drug users in Amsterdam.

Methods

Cross-sectional (at intake) and within-person trends in sexual behaviour were evaluated. Person—time analysis was used to determine trends in incidence of sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Results

From 1986 to 1992, ‘always' use of condoms in the 6 months preceding intake increased from 21 to 58% (P < 0.001) and the number of commercial contacts declined from 84 to 64 per month (P=0.06). Consequently, the mean number of unprotected commercial contacts declined from 26 to nine per month (P < 0.001). Temporal trends within individual prostitutes from visits 1 to 8 (mean interval between visits, 4 months) showed a somewhat larger risk reduction than the cross-sectional trends. From 1989 to 1992, the STD incidence declined from 61 to 40 episodes per 100 person-years (P=0.06). Prostitutes residing in Amsterdam for shorter time periods reported more STD and a relatively small core group reported the majority of STD episodes. At intake, when < 10% of all participants knew their HIV serostatus, HIV-positive prostitutes reported significantly lower levels of condom use and more STD than HIV-negatives, while, after learning their serostatus, levels of condom use and the STD-incidence were comparable. Prevalent and incident HIV infections were not observed among non-injecting prostitutes.

Conclusions

Drug-using prostitutes have reduced sexual risk behaviour. There is evidence for the effectiveness of HIV testing and counseling. At present, new infections among clients of drug-using prostitutes are expected to occur, although not on a large scale. Since the incidence of STD continues to be high, it is important to monitor the spread of HIV among heterosexuals, including prostitutes and their clients, closely.

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