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There is a need for research that is more concerned with the perspectives of the sex workers themselves. We have tried to demonstrate this by describing the relationships of female sex workers in Surabaya and Jakarta. These different relationships lead to different behaviours with regards to cleaning rituals, risk perception, prevention behaviour and the use of condoms. Data were collected in a research programme in which female sex workers in Jakarta, Surabaya and Bandung Indonesia joined a cohort study.
For this article we have concentrated on the material from Surabaya and Jakarta. Analysis showed that the concept of multiple identities was useful to understand how sex workers keep different aspects of their lives separated. Sex workers have different relationships with clients, regular clients, boyfriends and steady relationships in which role expectations are different and behaviour changes.
In terms of risk perception the fact that a new client is considered dirty kotor while if one is more familiar with a person he is not seen as dirty tidak kotor leads to different cleaning rituals and different attitudes towards condom use.
Appropriate interventions aimed at sex workers should not only approach them on one dimension of their multiple identities, but understand the complexities of these multiple identities and approach them as complete human beings, who are involved in more than sex transactions.
Most of the research on prostitution is applied research, because health-care workers had to understand more about sex work in order to develop or improve interventions. It has resulted in a growing number of publications on condom use Vanwesenbeeck et al. Underlying a lot of the research is the view that sex workers are a potential hazard for society and a multiplier in HIV-dissemination Lawless, Kippax and Crawford, Sex workers are often mainly viewed in the context of how their frequent change of sex partners contributes to HIV transmission Wawer et al This reinforces the patriarchal attitude of protecting men from HIV infection Downe , while in fact women are far more vulnerable to be infected de Bruyn , Sacks Female sex workers have a high risk for being infected Campbell , Sacks , but relatively little research is exclusively directed at their protection.