HIV in the Land of Baseball and Bachata: Dominican NGOs Provide Comprehensive Services to Those Most at Risk

Rosa parks her motorbike outside the El Mamey bar in downtown La Romana, on the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic. Lively Bachata music blares from the speakers as men on the sidewalk in front of the bar play dominoes. Inside the bar, 20 women seated on bar stools and benches smile and greet Rosa as she enters. She is well known to the women, and she hugs them before unpacking her backpack.

These women serve drinks to customers at El Mamey, occasionally dance with them for tips, and leave with those willing to pay to take them to nearby motels that rent rooms by the hour. This is one form of commercial sex work in La Romana. Other sex workers work in brothels, nightclubs, or even car wash businesses. Rosa knows them all, and regularly visits about 60 establishments where sex is sold in La Romana. Today, Rosa gives a talk about HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to the women at El Mamey, demonstrating the correct use of condoms and reminding the women to come for their monthly medical checkups at the Clínica de Familia La Romana (La Romana Family Clinic). At the end of her talk she answers questions, addresses common misunderstandings about HIV, and hands out educational materials and condoms.