Most sex workers repulsed by unnatural sex - PAHO study
- clients vary from governmental officials to miners
Kaieteur News
December 19, 2006

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A recent study on female sex workers (FSW) revealed that they have a wide assortment of clients, from government officials to miners.

The study, sponsored by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), dealt with ‘Perceptions and Behaviour regarding HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care among Female Sex Workers and Men who have Sex with Men (MSM)”.

PAHO's Suriname Consultant, Julia Terborg, who conducted the study, found no stereotype as to the profession of customers which is inclusive of businessmen, foreigners and interior labourers.

Most FSW revealed that among them are clients who refuse to pay, who are violent and who are reluctant to use condoms.

“Clients do no want to pay upfront before actual sex. Some insist that you should work before you get pay,” one FSW said.

Terborg said other FSW complained about men who would try to rob them.

“Some clients would say they just arrived from the bush and only have gold and then they pay you with fake gold. Some would pretend to be foreigners and explain that they do not have local currency,” another worker explained.

Nearly all the workers said that the main problem experienced in their line of work was related to violence and abuse.

This varies from verbal and physical abuse (kick, cuff, slap, choke) to being knifed, and raped.

“Men often threaten me with a knife or whatever weapon they may have at the time. Sometimes when a client is urged to use a condom he may try to bully you or choke you and some would even stab you,” one woman said.

Another sex worker revealed her repeated experience with rape, divulging that she has been raped about four times.

“Some clients are rude and say rude things, like calling us bitches and dogs. It is so embarrassing at times that I may not want to go with the person,” a FSW disclosed.

Sex workers also complained of clients who demand anal and oral sex, and most said they are not willing to perform such acts.

“The client would come to you and ask for a ‘lash off head” or anal sex and when you say no, they say you want so much money and don't want to give anal sex,” a worker related.

About one third of the victimised FSW never reported the violence to the police, for reasons of repercussions and feelings of embarrassment and shame.

Terborg said they are unwilling to share this information with anyone who might look down on them.

“Another frequently expressed perception is that violence is part of the job, meaning that violence by clients is perceived as a ‘job-related risk' and as such sex workers have to learn to deal with it,” Terborg stated.

Studies on female commercial sex workers are among the first HIV studies since the beginning of the epidemic in Guyana which has shown a significant reduction of infection from 43 to 21 percent from 1989 to 2004.

Since then there has been a persistence of unsafe sexual behaviour among FSW and a growing concern over their continuous exposure to HIV infection.

Almost unexplored is the group of males having sex with males (MSM) which Terborg described as “obviously a very high risk group” because of the greater stigma attached, much more than commercial sex.

Female sex workers and men who have sex with men are identified as ‘most at risk populations' (MARP) because of the clandestine nature of their sexuality and the stigma attached to their high risk lifestyles.

Terborg said a general acknowledgement is that in Guyana 's national response to HIV/AIDS, more emphasis should be placed on interventions and reduction of stigma and discrimination in order to achieve greater impact.

The aim of the study was to provide information for the development of policies to increase access of FSW and MSM to appropriate and affordable health services.

It was also conducted to assess the priority health needs of FSW and MSM and provide information for improvement and expansion of existing health services.