NIH Spends $3 Million To Study Health Risks of Dating Mexican Prostitutes

July 12, 2013 - 9:42 AM



Prostitutes (AP)

( – Just how dangerous is it to your health to shack up with a Mexican hooker? That’s the question at the heart of a five-year, $3,029,663 study by researchers at the University of California San Diego funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The five-year study is taking the first-ever look at the love lives – and sexually transmitted diseases – of 200 prostitutas mexicanas and their “non-commercial” male partners.

Based on previous research, UCSD scientists have been able to determine conclusively that the “non-commercial male partners” of Mexican prostitutes are very likely to pick up and spread their partners’ sexually-transmitted diseases, and may in fact be “significant drivers of HIV/STI acquisition and/or their re-infection.”

Begun in 2009, the Mexican prostitute study has already been receiving federal funding of over half a million dollars annually, and the $3 million price tag does not include the as-of-yet undetermined 2014 grant for the study’s  final year.

According to the description on the NIH website, “The overall goal of this study is to study the context and epidemiology of HIV, STIs [sexually transmitted infections] and associated risk behaviors among high risk female sex workers (FSWs) and their non-commercial male partners.”

“FSWs in our setting are more than twice as likely to engage in unprotected sex with their main non-commercial partner; half of these partners have concurrent partnerships and one third are IDUs [intravenous drug users]” the abstract noted.

The multi-million-dollar study has four specific goals:

1. To identify “patterns” between the couples’ drug use and unsafe sexual activity;

2. To determine the prevalence of HIV and other STIs among study subjects;

3. To predict STI prevalence among Mexican prostitutes and their significant others; and

4. To learn how to convince las prostitutas y sus amantes to engage in safer sex practices.

But the scientists say they still need to figure out the exact processes behind the spread of STIs among this demographic – a question they hope the present research will resolve.

The researchers claim that what they learn about the private love lives of Mexican prostitutes will help them “curtail HIV transmission among FSWs and their partners in other resource-constrained settings.”

Reseasrchers, including project leader Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, associate dean of UCSD's Division of Global Public Health, could not be reached for comment.