Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Relations

First Advisor's Name

John F. Clark

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Richard S. Olson

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Susanne Zwingel

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Aurora G. Morcillo

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Jean Muteba Rahier

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


HIV, AIDS, Sex Work, Prostitution, Criminalization, PEPFAR, Social Networks, Community, Social Capital, Reciprocity, Ethnography, Grounded Theory, East Africa, Uganda, Slums

Date of Defense



This dissertation offers an in-depth descriptive account of how women manage daily risks associated with sex work, criminalization, and HIV/AIDS. Primary data collection took place within two slums in Kampala, Uganda over the course of fourteen months. The emphasis was on ethnographic methodologies involving participant observation and informal and unstructured interviewing. Insights then informed document analysis of international and national policies concerning HIV prevention and treatment strategies in the context of Uganda. The dissertation finds social networks and social capital provide the basis for community formation in the sex trade. It holds that these interpersonal processes are necessary components for how women manage daily risks associated with sex work and criminalization. However, the dissertation also finds that women’s social connections can undermine the strategies they need to manage their HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. This is because current HIV/AIDS policies prioritize individual behavioral change practices that undermine the complex interpersonal activities developed by women to stay alive. In response, this dissertation concludes that social networks are fundamental to the formation of sex work communities and to the survival of women in the sex trade and should be considered in future HIV policies and programs intending to intervene in the HIV epidemic of female commercial sex workers in Kampala, Uganda.





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