Open Access Research article

Clients of sex workers in Switzerland: it makes sense to counsel and propose rapid test for HIV on the street, a preliminary report

Esther-Amélie Diserens12, Patrick Bodenmann1, Chantal N'Garambe1, Anne Ansermet-Pagot2, Marco Vannotti1, Eric Masserey3 and Matthias Cavassini4*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ambulatory Care and Community Medicine, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

2 Association Fleur de Pavé, Lausanne, Switzerland

3 Department of Public Health, Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland

4 Service of Infectious Diseases, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:74  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-74

Published: 19 March 2010



Clients of street sex workers may be at higher risk for HIV infection than the general population. Furthermore, there is a lack of knowledge regarding HIV testing of clients of sex workers in developed countries.


This pilot study assessed the feasibility and acceptance of rapid HIV testing by the clients of street-based sex workers in Lausanne, Switzerland. For 5 evenings, clients in cars were stopped by trained field staff for face-to-face interviews focusing on sex-related HIV risk behaviors and HIV testing history. The clients were then offered a free anonymous rapid HIV test in a bus parked nearby. Rapid HIV testing and counselling were performed by experienced nurse practitioners. Clients with reactive tests were offered confirmatory testing, medical evaluation, and care in our HIV clinic.


We intercepted 144 men, 112 (77.8%) agreed to be interviewed. Among them, 50 (46.6%) had never been tested for HIV. A total of 31 (27.7%) rapid HIV tests were performed, 16 (51.6%) in clients who had not previously been tested. None were reactive. Initially, 19 (16.9%) additional clients agreed to HIV testing but later declined due to the 40-minute queue for testing.


This pilot study showed that rapid HIV testing in the red light district of Lausanne was feasible, and that the clients of sex workers accepted testing at an unexpectedly high rate. This setting seems particularly appropriate for targeted HIV screening, since more than 40% of the clients had not previously been tested for HIV even though they engaged in sex-related HIV risk behaviour.