Drug users engaged in survival sex work are at heightened risk for drug- and sexual-related harms. We examined factors associated with survival sex work among street-involved youth in Vancouver, Canada.
From September 2005 to November 2007, baseline data were collected for the At-Risk Youth Study (ARYS), a prospective cohort of street-recruited youth aged 14–26 who use illicit drugs. Using multiple logistic regression, we compared youth who reported exchanging sex for money, drugs etc. with those who did not.
The sample included 560 youth: median age 22; 179 (32%) female; 63 (11%) reporting recent survival sex work. Factors associated with survival sex work in multivariate analyses included non-injection crack use [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 3.45, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.75–6.78], female gender (AOR = 3.02, 95% CI: 1.66–5.46), Aboriginal ethnicity (AOR = 2.35, 95% CI: 1.28–4.29) and crystal methamphetamine use (AOR = 2.02, 95% CI: 1.13–3.62). In subanalyses, the co-use of crack cocaine and methamphetamine was shown to be driving the association between methamphetamine and survival sex work.
This study demonstrates a positive interactive effect of dual stimulant use in elevating the odds of survival sex work among street youth who use drugs. Novel approaches to reduce the harms associated with survival sex work among street youth who use stimulants are needed.