Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Prostitutes Study Truck Drivers in S. Africa, Find High HIV Rate

Prostitutes who studied the habits of long distance truck drivers in South Africa in 1999 and 2000 found that a third of those surveyed always stopped for sex during journeys and more than half tested positive for HIV, according to study results released yesterday. South Africa's Medical Research Council said the study showed that 56 percent of drivers surveyed in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province were HIV-positive, that 34 percent of them reported always stopping for sex during journeys and that 29 percent never used condoms with prostitutes. At one truck stop, 95 percent of surveyed drivers were HIV-positive. All 320 drivers surveyed traveled to three or more provinces in South Africa, and most to neighboring countries. Of the 320, 70 percent had wives or girlfriends, and few had ever used a condom with these regular partners.

"The study highlights the urgent need to deal with the HIV epidemic across political boundaries in the southern African region," the council said. The council called for the urgent establishment of mobile clinics along trucking routes, cooperation between the government and the trucking industry on AIDS awareness and condom distribution to truckers and prostitutes.

Council researchers recruited 10 prostitutes at five truck stops to gather data from their clients. The women were trained to obtain the truckers' informed consent to participate in the study, to complete questionnaires and to obtain a saliva sample for HIV testing. The women were very enthusiastic about the project, said Gita Ramjee, one of the researchers. "For them it was something empowering, the ability to become a researcher," Ramjee said. She said the council decided to use the women in part because it was unsure how accessible the drivers would be to "outside" researchers.

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Created: May 7, 2001
Last modified: September 1, 2001
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