Globally, female sex workers (FSWs) are amongst the high-risk groups for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. In Malawi, HIV prevalence amongst FSWs is estimated at 25%, compared to 12.9% in women in the general population. The purpose of this study was to understand the lived experience of FSWs in the context of HIV self-testing through photovoice in Blantyre, Malawi.
We recruited eight FSWs (22-32 years old) who were either home-, bar-, or street-based. Participants attended a 1-day workshop to learn basic photography and introduction to photovoice, power and ethics. Each participant was then given a digital camera to take 50 photographs over 5 days documenting their daily life experiences.
Themes emerged that illustrated the participants’ lived experiences in the context of HIV self-testing: (1) perceptions of HIV risk in the context of HIV self-testing; (2) the reality of life on ART as a sex worker; (3) sanitation; (4) need for independence and freedom. Photovoice data is potentially beneficial for both researchers and participants by providing FSWs with a voice and a means of making sense of their past, present and prospects for the future.
Photographer: Participant 04, venue-based female sex worker
The reality of life on ART as sex workers
Photographer: Participant 03, venue-based female sex worker
Venue owners blamed for poor sanitation
Photographer: Participant 05, venue-based female sex worker
Need for independence and freedom
Photographer: Participant 06, street-based female sex worker