Prostitution in Haiti is illegal, but the country used to be a premier destination in the 1970s for sex tourism for adults. Since the 1940s, prostitution rings made up of Dominican women have circulated about the capital and today, are found in the suburb of Pétionville. A premium is placed on Dominican women due to their lighter skin and mixed race appearance.
Haiti suffers from extreme poverty, with much of the population living on less than a dollar a day; those with no other resources often turn to prostitution. Haiti has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Western Hemisphere. The country faces the worst AIDS epidemic outside of Africa. The epidemic is fueled by endemic poverty, high illiteracy rates and inadequate health and social services. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS among the general population was estimated to be between 2.5% and 11.9% in 2003. Analysis of the causes of death, which started when hospital death certificates began to be collected in 1997, shows that AIDS is the leading cause of death in the country.