Ethnographic mapping of commercial sex venues with male sex workers or fletes in Peru
A. Bayer1, J. Clark1, D. Diaz2, H. Sanchez3, P. Garcia4, T. Coates1
1University of California, Los Angeles, Division of Infectious Diseases, David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, United States, 2Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru, 3Epicentro, Lima, Peru, 4Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Epidemiology, STIs and HIV Unit, School of Public Health and Administration, Lima, Peru
Background: In Peru, little is known about male sex
workers, or fletes, an MSM
sub-population at risk for HIV and other STIs and a potential bridge population
for HIV transmission to heterosexual women. We carried out ethnographic mapping
to describe the geographic and social context of flete commercial sex work in Lima.
Methods: We created a map of a diverse range of commercial
sex venues, then carried out participant observation and in-depth interviews with
fletes in each venue to describe in
detail the venue, the fletes and
potential clients. Observations were
synthesized in a matrix and interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed.
Data was triangulated to form an ethnographic map of flete-associated commercial sex venues in Lima.
Results: We identified diverse commercial sex venues.
Physical spaces included public spaces (plazas),
saunas, pornographic video houses, bars and nightclubs. Media spaces included
the “escort” and “general contact” sections of gay websites and classified ads
in newspapers. The fletes identified
were between 18 and 40 years of age and, in most cases, reported performing
only an insertive role during sex with clients. Flete venues are associated with socioeconomic (SES) distinctions:
lower-SES fletes frequent all public
spaces and commercial venues in the center of Lima while higher-SES fletes are commonly found in the
commercial spaces of suburban neighborhoods, on internet websites, and in
classified newspaper ads. An
“autonomy” gradient parallels these categories since lower-SES fletes charge less for their services
and often have to share part of their earnings with a “leader” while higher-SES
fletes charge more and usually work
Conclusions: Our initial mapping of fletes in Lima provides important insights into this sub-population
in Peru. We are currently conducting a study to collect behavioral and
biological data to further describe fletes
and develop appropriate HIV prevention interventions.
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