Informal Strategies for Risk Assessment Among Brazilian Male Sex Workers and Their Clients

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Sexually transmitted infections have always been a threat for both sex workers and their clients. This issue has become more prominent, however, since the early 1980s when HIV surfaced as an incurable and life-threatening virus. Studies on safer sex and male sex work have examined many topics but few studies have done so from the perspectives of both sex workers and their clients. In this article, we examine strategies used by both parties for risk assessments in Brazilian termas (saunas). We analyzed 45 in-depth interviews conducted between 2010 and 2014. All participants are or have been sex workers and or their clients. We used a grounded theory approach which allows themes and issues that participants deemed important to emerge in analyzing the data. The results of this exploratory study suggest that sex workers and their clients in Brazil attempt to make risk assessments even though their methods are not scientific or necessarily reliable. Three common strategies engaged by both parties include playing defensive, relying on visual verification, and using gossip as a source of information. In the absence of immediate and reliable source of information to aid risk assessment, these are some of the strategies they can use at the site of interaction to make their best informed decision on with whom to transact and what the transaction should entail. An often under-examined source of information is the role of gossips or small talk among clients, among sex workers and between sex workers and clients.



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