"No party hat, no party": Successful condom use in sex work in Mexico and the Dominican Republic

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



Sex workers and their clients are particularly vulnerable to HIV/STI transmission. Most research on condom use has focused on barriers preventing use; less is known about attitudes, motivations and strategies employed by those who feel positively about condoms and who use them successfully. For this qualitative study, we conducted focus group discussions with sex workers (14), both female and transvestite, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and female sex workers (17) and male clients (11) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, who identified themselves as successful condom users in a condom use questionnaire. Discussions explored definitions of successful condom use, motivations and strategies for condom use and messages for future condom promotion. Sex workers defined successful condom use as being in agreement with their clients and partners about using condoms, protecting themselves from disease and unwanted pregnancy, and feeling good about using condoms. Condoms were seen to be hygienic, offer protection and provide a sense of security and peace of mind. Specific strategies included always having condoms on hand, stressing the positive aspects of condoms and eroticising condom use. Future educational messages should emphasise condom use to protect loved ones, increase security and pleasure during sex, and demonstrate respect for both sex workers, clients and partners.