Perception About Oral Health and Its Determinants in Women in Context of Prostitution in Medellín (Colombia): Expressions of Social Vulnerability

  •  Alejandro Vásquez- Hernández    
  •  Carolina Zapata- Villa    
  •  Andrés Agudelo-Suárez    


BACKGROUND & OBJECTIVE: Women in context of prostitution (commonly called sex workers) are considered a vulnerable group due to their precarious employment, abuse and exploitation. This study aimed to understand the knowledge, practices and social representations about the oral health component for the health-disease process and its determinants in this group.

METHODS: A qualitative study was conducted by means of 12 semi-structured interviews in women ≥ 18 years of age who are dedicated to the act of prostitution. In addition, three interviews were conducted with leaders of projects and/or social organizations within Medellin who work alongside sex workers. The information was analyzed using the Atlas.Ti 6.0 software by identifying meaning codes and grouping in emergent categories.

RESULTS: The analysis of the interviews allowed to establish categories related to oral health and quality of life, social determinants and accessibility to health care. The concept of oral health is related to their self-perception of hygiene and the aesthetic appearance. They relate the concept of quality of life to meet basic needs such as food, housing, health, education, and have a decent job. The economic, political and social context in which they are located affects the quality of life. They identify barriers to access to oral health services, although much of these women recognize their lack of compromise when they need to seek health care.

CONCLUSIONS: The oral health and its determinants as perceived by the people interviewed is a true reflection about the situation of social vulnerability of the women in context of prostitution.

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