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"Why do sex workers do what they do?," ask AIDS researchers
(Photo1) Participants of AIDS walk rally hold banners during in Kobe on Sunday. The Asia-Pacific region has the world's second-highest infection rate after sub-Saharan Africa, and the armed forces themselves present a particularly high-risk group due to their mobility, according to a meeting of military officials at the Seventh International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Kobe.
KOBE -- A young homosexual man in Sydney may sell his body for the evening because he's short on cash and likes life on the edge.
An underage Nepalese girl works in an Indian brothel because her relatives sold her to a trafficker.
The reasons behind sex work in the Asia-Pacific are as diverse as the region itself.
Understanding that is vital to protecting sex workers and preventing them from spreading HIV/AIDS in a region where paid sex is a main driver behind the world's second-highest HIV infection rate, said researchers Sunday at the Seventh International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Kobe.
In a recent study of 1,400 gay men in Sydney, one in five said they had at some point been paid for sex, said Dr. Garrett Prestage from Australia's University of New South Wales.
(Photo 2) Participants of an AIDS walk rally hold banners during in Kobe on Sunday.
Often they were younger men with low incomes who practiced "fairly opportunistic circumstantial payment for sex," he said.
"The men who are paid for sex are usually more adventurous sexually and in other ways," said Prestage. "They tend to ... party hard and play on the edge _ they're risk takers."
Most used condoms in the context of sex work but had unprotected sex with casual partners, complicating efforts to combat HIV transmission, Prestage said.
"Reinforcing condom use during sex work is important but it isn't sufficient for these men. They also need to be targeted on the basis of the risks they take in their gay lifestyles," he said.
The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than half the world's population and its people cross the demographic, socio-economic and religious spectrum.
Curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS among some 200,000 Nepalese women estimated to be working in India's sex industry poses different challenges, said U.K.-based researcher Bibha B. Bhurtyal.
(Photo 3) Participants of AIDS walk rally hold banners during in Kobe on Sunday.
Among these women, knowledge of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases was very low, she said.
"Most believed that STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are avoided by staying clean," Bhurtyal said.
Even those aware of the risks are often in too weak of a position to demand the use of condoms, she added. (By Natalie Obiko Pearson, Associated Press Writer)
July 3, 2005
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