1990 Los Angeles Women's Health Risk Study
David Kanouse

Female prostitutes have been a risk group of special epidemiologic concern since the early stages of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic. High rates of sexual activity with multiple partners expose both prostitutes and their clients to substantial risk of infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Moreover, evidence that many female prostitutes inject drugs or have sex with men who do has raised the concern that these women could serve as a bridge for HIV transmission between injecting drug users and non-drug-injecting heterosexuals. Finally, prostitutes' sexual and drug-related risk behaviors not only place many of them at high risk of becoming HIV-infected themselves but also passing HIV infection to children they bear.

Investigators interviewed a stratified probability sample of 1,024 female street prostitutes in Los Angeles County between May 1990 and February 1991 to study behavior that is linked to transmission of HIV and other STDs. Although the study also collected blood samples from a subsample of 638 women to examine markers of HIV infection, as well as past syphilis and hepatitis B infection, the original investigator did not include blood sample data in this public use data set. This data set contains data on 909 variables across 1,024 respondents.

This study of the risk behavior of female prostitutes and their clients provides an important window on risk behavior that is reported rarely in general population surveys. Virtually all previous studies of female prostitutes have relied on samples of convenience, often from settings (such as STD clinics or jails) in which selection processes could make them atypical; generalizing from such samples is problematic. The present study is unique in describing the characteristics, risk behavior and serological status of a probability sample of street prostitutes from a major metropolitan area of the U.S., which is also an AIDS epicenter.

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