SWEAT Shorts

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The long overdue post

Well, this is beyond overdue. My apologies. The good news is that since it has been almost 6 months since our last post, we have a lot to share with you.

As of Wednesday, March 28th, we now have 86 participants!! Other folks that we spoke to who have used the same methodology that we are using, Respondent Driven Sampling, shared with us that it would take a few months before people really started coming in. I have to be honest, during those first few months, I had my doubts that this would catch. In hindsight launching in the middle of October more than likely was part of the slow beginning as people are typically quite busy that time of year with Thanksgiving, the various December holidays, and then New Year celebrations. Regardless, come the middle of January, we reached that tipping point and have been busy ever since.

To date we have planted 12 seeds, and 5 of those have come in. As a reminder, a seed is that first woman to do the interview who represents a part of the sex worker community that we have not seen yet in the study. Of the 5 seeds, it is really only 1 that has taken off. It would be fabulous to have some of these other seeds take off. Nonetheless, the seed that did take off has now branched out so many times, that we have a very diverse group of women. At this point, the women who are not coming in are the non-street based workers who are more financially secure. It’s tricky since for these women the $40 we pay for the first visit is potentially not incentive enough to get them to come in, especially if they are used to making $100+ for an hour of their time. Also, in San Francisco it is pretty easy to get free HIV and STI testing, so the fact that we offer those tests and treatment may also prevent this from being a priority for some women. We will keep planting seeds in this demographic, so only time will tell if they will take off.

We have had a handful of women who have either never tested for HIV before, or have never previously returned for their results. While I understand the financial incentive may play a big role in getting some of these women in, I know that the safe and compassionate environment we create at site is what gets them to come back. Additionally we have had many women do the interview who shared that they have never spoken to another person about the sex work that they do. So, a big huge thank you to all the interviewers and counselors working on this project, as without them, this would not be possible.

Based on what the women have shared with their interviewers, we have created referral sheets for counseling, methadone programs, buprenorphine programs, resources for newly HIV+ women (or women who knew their status but have not accessed care), Hep C resources in the Bay Area, and needle exchange. If anyone reading this works in the Bay Area and would like to see these sheets, please send me an e-mail and I will get a copy to you.


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