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Understanding Commercially Sexually Exploited Youths' Facilitators and Barriers toward Contraceptive Use: I Didn't Really Have a Choice


Study objective

Because of the high reproductive health risks that commercially sexually exploited youth (CSEY) face, we sought to understand facilitators and barriers related to their use of condoms and hormonal contraception. DESIGN, SETTING, PARTICIPANTS, INTERVENTIONS, AND MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: We conducted semistructured interviews with 21 female CSEY. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded for emergent themes. Participants were enrolled through group homes and a juvenile specialty court serving CSEY.


Overall, CSEY reported relatively easy access to hormonal contraception and condoms, expressing a strong preference for condoms as their primary form of contraception. Most respondents described an aversion toward hormonal birth control, attributed to personal experiences and peer accounts of side effects. Many also shared a common belief that hormonal methods are "unnatural," cause infertility, and have low efficacy. Although youth expressed a preference for condom use, they also reported frequent unprotected sex. Furthermore, there were notable barriers to hormonal contraception and condom use that were specific to youths' sexual exploitation, primarily because of their lack of control while trafficked.


Although participants noted relatively easy access to contraception, a number of barriers to condom and hormonal contraceptive use exist. Many of these barriers align with youth identified in other at-risk adolescent populations, however, CSEY also face a number of barriers that might be attributable to their unique experience of commercial sexual exploitation. Contraceptive education that dispels prevailing myths, sets clear expectations regarding side effects, and emphasizes autonomy is most likely to resonate with their world view and experiences.

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