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Med Anthropol. 2003 Jul-Sep;22(3):233-59.

"Nobody gives a damn if I live or die": violence, drugs, and street-level prostitution in inner-city Hartford, Connecticut.

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  • 1Hispanic Health Council, Hartford, CT, USA.


Drawing on the tenets of critical medical anthropology, this article illustrates the relation between violence, drug use, prostitution, and HIV risk in a group of 35 impoverished women living in inner-city Hartford, Connecticut. The study presented here provides an illustration of the role prostitution plays in the SAVA (Substance Abuse, Violence, and AIDS) syndemic as conceptualized by Singer (1996). By focusing on the life experiences of women engaged in street-level prostitution, this article attempts to fill the gaps in research that deals simultaneously with these mutually reinforcing epidemics. It shows that street-walkers' continuous exposure to violence, both as victims and as witnesses, often leaves them suffering from major emotional trauma. In the absence of adequate support services, women who have been victimized may turn to drug use in an attempt to deal with the harsh realities of their daily lives. In turn, the need for drugs, coupled with a lack of educational and employment opportunities, may lead women into prostitution. Life on the street increases women's risk for physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as well as their risk for HIV/AIDS. Exposure to traumatic experiences deepens the dependence on drugs, completing a vicious cycle of violence, substance abuse, and AIDS risk.

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