The lives of female sex workers in Vietnam: Findings from a qualitative study

Anh D. Ngo, Sheryl A. McCurdy, Michael W. Ross, Christine Markham, Eric A. Ratliff, Hang T.B. Pham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


To facilitate better understanding of the environment and power structures in which sex work in Vietnam takes place, this study examined the sex workers' social and economic lives, their working environment, social relationships and presentation of self in everyday social contacts and interactions. Thirty in-depth interviews and 14 focus groups were conducted with street-based and venue-based sex workers in the cities of Da Nang and Hanoi. Results show that sex workers live and work within a complex system involving multiple relationships. In any of these relations, women have limited power to protect their personal security and secure payment for services rendered. Economic hardship is a major problem facing street-level sex workers and contributes to unsafe sexual practices. Venue-based sex workers worry less about economic hardships as such, but frequently incur gambling debts. Women also reported incidents of abuse and experiences of social stigma. Although many women exhibited a strong desire to leave sex work, they found themselves trapped in the sex industry by the lack of alternative employment options. This study provides evidence that socio-psychological factors must be addressed along with risky behaviours to promote women's well-being and social integration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-570
Number of pages16
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) through World Vision International, Vietnam.


  • HIV
  • Lives
  • Sex workers
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Stigma


Dive into the research topics of 'The lives of female sex workers in Vietnam: Findings from a qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this