Spotlight Center on HIV Prevention Today


Hunger Leads to Risky Sex in San Francisco

July 28, 2015

Hunger Leads to Risky Sex in San Francisco

A poster presented at the International AIDS Society Conference in Vancouver last week explored the desperation caused by food insecurity -- and how hunger can lead to risky sex exchange and HIV. The current study is unique in that it explores the issue in a resource-rich area and includes men who have sex with men.

The research team from the University of California, San Francisco conducted semi-structured interviews with 34 low-income people living with HIV in the Bay Area who were receiving meals from the non-profit Project Open Hand. The interviews asked participants about food insecurity, sexual relationships, sex practices and use of condoms, being able to decline sexual advances, transactional sex and sexual decision making.

Food Insecurity Can Lead to Transactional Sex

Both men and women interviewed for the study had exchanged sex as a way to buy food during times when they could not afford to buy their own food. "You've got to do what you've got to sometimes," one woman is quoted as saying.

Some people relied on sex work as a longer-term way to afford food. Other people said they only exchanged sex as a last resort during desperate times -- such as when they were homeless. "It wasn't that I was like actually hustling or advertising for it. It was just more like desperate times, desperate measures, you know?" said one man.

Exchanging sex for food was unfavorable because it was dangerous, and came with risk of being robbed or worse.

Hunger Can Lead to Riskier Sex

Food oftentimes took precedence over safer sex. And hunger caused people to think differently about sexual risk -- causing it to fall lower on people's priority lists.

This excerpt was cross-posted with the permission of Read the full article.

This article was provided by BETA. Visit their website at

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