Short-term interruptions to sex work among a prospective cohort of street-based cisgender female sex workers in Baltimore

Rebecca Hamilton White, Ju Nyeong Park, Noya Galai, Michele R. Decker, Sean T. Allen, Katherine H.A. Footer, Susan G. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Street-based female sex workers (FSW) often cycle in and out of sex work engagement. For many FSW, substance use plays a critical role in sex work entry, continuation, and interruptions. We examined individual, interpersonal, and structural correlates of short-term interruptions of sex work among street-based FSW in an urban environment. Methods: Data were from 205 FSW in Baltimore, MD, USA followed as part of an observational prospective cohort study between April 2016-Februrary 2018. The primary outcome was short-term interruptions of sex work (stopping sex work) over the past 3 months, asked every 3 months over a 12-month follow-up. We assessed the relationship between individual, structural, and interpersonal factors for each woman's prior visit and current visit with short-term sex work interruptions. We employed modified Poisson regression with Generalized Estimating Equations to identify correlates of short-term interruptions of sex work. Results: Eighty-two women (40%) reported stopping sex work over the past 3 months at least once during follow-up. Past drug treatment (adjusted incidence rate ratio [aIRR] 1.40; 95% CI: 1.06–1.86) and not having used drugs in the past 3 months (aIRR 2.70; 95% CI: 1.96–3.71) were positively associated with short-term interruption to sex work. Past intimate partner violence (IPV) (aIRR 0.52; 95% CI: 0.31–0.86) and current homelessness (aIRR 0.61; 95% CI: 0.41–0.91) were negatively associated with short-term interruption. Results were inconclusive for the association between recent prostitution arrest and short-term interruptions to sex work (IRR 0.86; 95% CI: 0.40–1.86). Conclusion: The study suggests that similar to other professions, women leave sex work for numerous reasons. Substance use cessation and participation in drug treatment programs may contribute to short-term interruptions of sex work by reducing reliance on sex work for income among street-based FSW. Structural vulnerabilities including homelessness and IPV are driving continued street-based sex work, speaking to the need for holistic structural interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102858
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Arrest
  • Female sex workers
  • Homelessness
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Substance use
  • Women who use drugs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


Dive into the research topics of 'Short-term interruptions to sex work among a prospective cohort of street-based cisgender female sex workers in Baltimore'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this