May 30, 2012
Ukraine's sex workers are counting on the country hosting the Euro 2012 soccer championship to bring in clients and cash. Concurrently, however, AIDS advocates are issuing stark reminders that the nation has the highest HIV infection rate in Eastern Europe.
Hundreds of thousands of fans are expected for the games, which begin June 8 in Warsaw, Poland, and end in Kiev, Ukraine's capital. According to the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Ukraine is home to between 52,000 and 83,000 sex workers -- 11,000 in Kiev alone. Other eastern Ukraine tournament venues in Donetsk and Kharviv have some 3,000 sex workers, while Lviv is home to nearly 2,500.
UNAIDS reports upwards of 350,000 Ukrainians age 15 and over are HIV-positive. Further, a 2011 study by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance asserts that 24 percent of prostitutes in Kiev and 38 percent of those in Donetsk are HIV-positive.
One Ukrainian sex website claims Kiev prostitutes are even attempting to gain a competitive edge by studying the histories of participating nations, as well as the basics of soccer. Although Kiev prostitutes and brothels contacted by Agence France Presse said they realize the risks and use condoms, only 60 percent rule out unprotected sex. Others, as many as 22 percent according to 2010 survey data, are willing to forgo condom use for an added fee.
Fearing a rise in sex tourism related to Euro 2012, Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN is waging a campaign saying "Ukraine is not a brothel."
European soccer's governing body, UEFA, also has launched a campaign championing condom use. "Show HIV and AIDS the red card. The HIV virus doesn't play fair, so you have to," says the campaign.