Open Access Open Badges Research article

Correlates of STI symptoms among female sex workers with truck driver clients in two Mexican border towns

Nadine E Chen13*, Steffanie A Strathdee1, Felipe J Uribe-Salas2, Thomas L Patterson1, Maria Gudelia Rangel2, Perth Rosen1 and Kimberly C Brouwer1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA

2 El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Tijuana, Baja California, México

3 Division of Global Public Health, University of California, San Diego; 9500 Gilman Dr, San Diego, CA, 92093-0507, USA

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:1000  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-1000

Published: 20 November 2012



Female sex workers (FSW) are at increased risk for HIV and other STI due to occupation-related risks and exposures. Long-distance truck drivers have been implicated in the spread of HIV, but less is known about HIV/STI risks of FSW servicing truck drivers, especially in North America. As part of an international collaborative pilot study, we interviewed FSWs servicing truck driver clients along two major transportation corridors to explore factors associated with recent STI symptoms.


A cross-sectional study of 200 FSW was conducted in Mexico: 100 from Nuevo Laredo (U.S. border); 100 from Ciudad Hidalgo (Guatemalan border). Eligibility criteria included age ≥18 years, speaking English or Spanish, and having ≥1 truck driver client in the past month. The main outcome was reporting any recent STI symptoms, defined as experiencing genital/anal warts, genital ulcers/sores, genital itching, or abnormal vaginal discharge in the past 6 months. Logistic regression was used to identify correlates of recent STI symptoms.


Median age of FSW was 29 years, 74% were single, 87% had <9th grade education, and median income was 4000 pesos/month ($300 USD). Sex work occurred at a bar/cantina for 70%. One-quarter had never been tested for HIV, 53% reported lifetime drug use, 22% reported drinking alcohol before/during transactional sex and 17% reported recent STI symptoms. After controlling for age and study site, factors associated with STI symptoms were lifetime drug use (AOR 2.9, 95% CI 1.2-6.9), drug use before/during sex (AOR 2.8, 95% CI 1.1-7.1), alcohol use before/during sex (AOR 5.2, 95% CI 2.2, 12.6), forced sex ever (AOR 2.6, 95% CI 1.1-6.1), lifetime history of arrest (AOR 2.3, 95% CI 1.0-5.0), and being surveyed in Nuevo Laredo rather than Ciudad Hidalgo (AOR 4.8, 95% CI 2.0-10.0).


The associations we observed between recent STI symptoms and drug and alcohol use suggest that interventions are needed that promote consistent and effective safer sex practices, especially while under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

Sexually transmitted infections; Sexually transmitted diseases; Substance use; Alcohol; Drugs; Female sex workers