August 22, 2006
Findings presented by UNICEF at the 16th International AIDS Conference showed that a "significantly higher" proportion of child prostitutes in Kenya reported having anal sex than their adult counterparts, mostly to preserve their virginity or because clients demanded it.
"Very young children [11 to 14 years old] were having four or five partners a night," said UNICEF researcher Catherine Sarah Jones. "In terms of risk, it's no good if you're using condoms only 60 percent of the time."
The study found only 65 percent of child prostitutes in Kenya used condoms, compared to 75 percent of adult sex workers. The survey looked at child prostitution across several regions of the country. Jones said many children are "casual" sex workers and do not receive the same access to HIV prevention information as adults.
Jones said the recklessness of youth combined with thrill-seeking sex tourists results in lower condom usage. "Adolescents are by nature risk takers and sex tourists are risk takers," she said. "There is something about traveling to exotic places that encourages risky behavior."
The survey found that people who pay for sex with Kenyan children are not exclusively sex tourists but include foreign soldiers, businessmen and many Kenyans.
"I believe this is the first time that there has been any quantifiable data on child prostitution," Jones said. "Kenya will be the first country to say, 'We know it's happening, we know the extent, we know the circumstances of the children and we also know in a limited way what the client base is.'"
The complete study, to be released later this year, is expected to help form global policies to combat child prostitution.