By its pervasiveness throughout the world, child prostitution can be considered a public health problem. It poses serious health and safety risks for minors involved in this practice. Not only is child prostitution taboo in many communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, but its effects on minors in that region are also hardly explored. A descriptive cross-sectional research design, with a survey instrument consisting of 41 closed-ended questions, was used to conduct a study about the risks and effects of prostitution on the health and safety of prostituted children in three countries in the West African region. A convenience sample of 709 children in prostitution, including 696 girls and 13 boys, took part in the study. Issues explored include risks and consequences of child prostitution, prevalence of sexually transmitted infections and diseases (STIs/STDs) among the respondents, experiences of violence in prostitution, and strategies for prevention of STIs and violence. The findings show that the level of condom use among prostituted children was higher in major cities than in small ones. Less than 25% of the respondents contracted STIs/ STDs; very few respondents among those who experienced such infections sought any medical care. Substantial proportions of respondents who experienced physical violence by clients, community members, and/or law enforcement, did not seek assistance from child protection services. Implications for practice, policy, and research are discussed.
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