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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Academics & Research

Researchers form standard study to connect outreaches to sex workers

Krishnamurthy's work is the first of its kind and is suspected to have similar results if conducted in the U.S. | Courtesy of Partha Krishnamurthy

Krishnamurthy’s work is the first of its kind and is suspected to have similar results if conducted in the U.S. | Courtesy of Partha Krishnamurthy

Peer outreach workers have finally discovered communication as the missing link between sex workers and their access to health services.

According to research conducted by UH marketing and entrepreneurship professor Partha Krishnamurthy, many sex workers do not utilize health services for medical testing and treatment is because they are not approached with that information. 

The research was conducted from 2008 to 2012 in Bengal, India and included 2,075 female sex workers. It was published in the peer-review journal PLOS ONE.

“You want to know that peer outreach works in terms of improving the lives of this vulnerable population,” Krishnamurthy said.

Once sex workers are informed of these resources, Krishnamurthy found that they are more likely to consistently visit health clinics for testing and treatment of HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

There is an estimate of 500,000 to 1 million sex workers in the U.S. 

Sam K. Hui, an associate professor of marketing and entrepreneurship who led the research along with Krishnamurthy, said their work is a landmark study due to it being the first to provide data about how peer outreach work affects sex workers.

“I think this case provides initial evidence that peer education outreach is working and has a beneficial effect,” Hui said.

Hui said that while the results of the research were expected, the lack of researchers’ effort on behalf of sex workers was surprising. Hui speculated that similar results would be found if the research were conducted in the U.S.

The study came to be when Narayanan Shivkumar, a co­-author on the paper, mentioned to Krishnamurthy that there was a project taking place at a health center that dealt with sex workers.

Krishnamurthy then inquired how Shivkumar knew if the project worked.

The study now stands as the first of its kind for current and future peer outreach programs that strive to make a difference in medical accessibility for sex workers.

Hui and Krishnamurthy are determined to continue their research.

“For follow-up research, Partha and I are going to look into the different peer education outreach programs and see which elements are working,” Hui said.

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