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Forced prostitution, human trafficking, sex worker, sexual exploitation, traffick, transactional sex



  1. Lepianka, Christine MS, RN, SANE
  2. Colbert, Alison M. PhD, PHCNS-BC


Background: Human sex trafficking is a major public health issue. The United States is the second largest market for sex-trafficked women, yet few healthcare interventions, designed for women specifically, have been identified. The purpose of this review was to present a systematic review of the literature on the characteristics and healthcare needs of women who have been trafficked for sex in the United States.


Methods: This literature review was conducted following the methodology outlined by Whittmore and Knalf and written using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses criteria. Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health, PsychInfo, PubMed, and Scopus databases were searched. A quality assessment tool was used to determine rigor of the studies included in this review.


Results: Nine publications met the inclusion criteria. Three studies specifically explored health. Four studies were composed solely of women born outside the United States, and two studies reported differences across many variables, including overall health, between women born outside the United States and women born within the United States. A lack of resources and an inadequate response by the health system resulted in care that was not optimal.


Conclusion: There are differences between U.S.-born and non-U.S.-born victims. Evidence on the healthcare needs of U.S.-born women trafficked for sex in the United States is extremely limited. Research focusing on the health perceptions of women survivors of human sex trafficking may shed light on how they perceive health, care, and the health system and what they identify as important for key stakeholders to understand.