Thursday, July 12, 2001

HIV/AIDS: Clients, Not Sex Workers, Are the Problem

The issue of commercial sex and HIV/AIDS is being highlighted at the national AIDS conference this week in Thailand. Chantawipha Aphisuk of Empower Foundation said sex workers were the first group to be targeted under the state's AIDS prevention policy because the spread of the virus in the country began with them. Most sex workers are required to have blood tests every three months, she said, and this exposes them to social stigma and prejudice.

Natharat Buakham, representing sex workers at the meeting, insisted that rather than being a source of AIDS, sex workers play a vital role in preventing the spread of the virus by educating their clients about safer sex, including demanding they use condoms. Sex workers, like people from other professions, have job ethics and standards, and most know they have a responsibility not to pass on infection to others, she said. "I can assure you that sex workers can also provide quality services. We are sexual experts who can persuade men to use condoms," she said.

Phinyanee Chaemkrachang of Chachoengsao provincial health office said a survey showed the HIV infection rate among sex workers there had declined from 21 percent in 1999 to 15 percent in 2000. It also revealed the rate of condom use among sex workers to be 95 percent, but only 40 percent among military recruits and 56 percent among factory workers. Gunnar Walzholz of the International Labor Organization Bangkok said the application of core labor standards in the commercial sex sector would improve working conditions and empower sex workers to effectively protect themselves and their clients from disease.

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Created: July 13, 2001
Last modified: September 1, 2001
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