Homeless young people who engage in sex work are at increased risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and herpes. Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with 29 homeless young people between the ages of 16 and 25 years from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, to explore how sexual practices were mediated through social and contextual conditions. Participants engaged in sex for a range of reported reasons, most commonly to generate income, but also to build intimacy and to establish intimate partnerships which could bring physical protection and social and emotional support. Although participants were aware of the sexual health risks attached to condomless sex, they engaged in it due to the social obligations of intimate partnerships, financial considerations and to better manage potentially violent situations. Instead of condoms, participants used alternate methods like withdrawal, oral sex, post‐sex douching and specific sexual positions. These were not always useful, and some methods might have inadvertently increased their risk of HIV. The study findings suggest that an integrated health promotion approach that goes beyond the health sector and a singular emphasis on risk awareness may help reduce young people's risk of homelessness and sexual health risks.
- sexual behaviour
- sexually transmitted infections
- social exclusion
- young people