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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52579. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052579. Epub 2012 Dec 27.

Rapid syphilis testing uptake for female sex workers at sex venues in Southern China: implications for expanding syphilis screening.

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  • 1National Center for Sexually Translated Disease (STD) Control and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Institute of Dermatology, Nanjing, China.



Accessibility of syphilis testing services is critical in syphilis control programs for female sex workers (FSWs), but few FSWs attend public STI clinics or other testing sites. Introduction of free rapid syphilis testing (RST) into outreach programs for FSWs will help improve test uptake.


Commercial sex venues were identified in two cities in South China. In cooperation with health advocacy organizations, health outreach teams from local public health or medical facilities approached all types of sex venues in study areas to offer free RST. Acceptability and uptake of RST among FSWs were evaluated.


A total of 2812 FSWs were offered RST and 2670 (95.0%) accepted syphilis testing. 182 (6.8%) FSWs had a positive RST result among whom 136 (74.7%) were willing to attend an STD clinic for confirmatory testing and treatment. More than half (89, 66.4%) of those with syphilis were not willing to notify their sex partners. Multivariate logistic analysis showed that syphilis test uptake was associated with residing in Jiangmen (AOR, 1.78; 95% CI, 1.15-2.77), older age (AOR, 2.11, 95% CI, 1.17-3.79 for age of 31 years or above), and not working at a service venue (AOR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.10-2.34).


RST at sex venues is well accepted by FSWs when it is integrated into ongoing outreach services. Such programs provide excellent opportunities for expanding syphilis screening efforts among specific subgroups of FSW who are difficult to reach through clinic-based programs.

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