Comparing typologies of violence exposure and associations with syndemic health outcomes among cisgender and transgender female sex workers living with HIV in the Dominican Republic

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



PloS one








Violence against women research largely excludes transgender women's experiences and violence from perpetrators other than intimate partners. This study compares patterns of violence exposure among cisgender and transgender female sex workers (FSWs) and the associations with syndemic health outcomes. We used cross-sectional surveys from samples of cisgender and transgender FSWs living with HIV in the Dominican Republic (N = 211 and 100, respectively). We used latent class analysis to identify patterns of emotional, physical, and sexual violence and harassment by partners, clients, and police. We assessed sociodemographic and occupational predictors in relation to class membership, and class membership in relation to health (HIV continuum of care outcomes, mental health, substance use), using logistic regression. Two classes were identified in cisgender sample: Low Reported Violence Exposure (Class 1) and Sex Work-related Police Harassment (Class 2). Class 2 participants had greater odds of scoring abnormal or borderline abnormal anxiety on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS-A) (adjusted OR = 3.97, p<0.01), moderate-to-severe depression per the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) (aOR = 5.74, p<0.01), and any illicit drug use in the past six months (aOR = 3.06, p<0.05), compared to Class 1. The transgender sample produced three classes: Low Reported Violence Exposure (Class 1); Sex Work-related Police Harassment (Class 2); and Sex Work-related Violence and Harassment (Class 3). Class 3 participants had greater odds of having anxiety (aOR = 6.65, p<0.01) and depression (aOR = 4.45, p<0.05), while Class 2 participants had greater odds of perfect ART adherence during the previous four days (aOR = 2.78, p<0.05), compared to Class 1. The more diverse and extreme violence patterns uncovered for the transgender sample show this group's heightened risk, while similar patterns across groups regarding police abuse highlight a need for police-focused violence prevention interventions. Each sample's highest violence class was associated with poor mental health, underscoring the need for mental health interventions for all FSWs.


Prevention and Community Health