Mexican Border City of Tijuana Tries to Make Prostitution Safer
September 20, 2005
On Aug. 12, new regulations took effect requiring Tijuana's sex workers to pass monthly STD exams as part of revised standards aimed at protecting their health and shutting down unsafe brothels. The city will issue electronic cards to replace the pink, pocket-sized health-history books that about 4,700 registered prostitutes currently carry. Health inspectors will swipe the cards through hand-held devices to ensure the women have passed the monthly exams.
Dr. Leticia Chavez, one of three doctors working at Tijuana's government-run clinic, said she sees around 10-15 cases of gonorrhea a month. To date this year, there have been a few syphilis cases and no HIV cases.
"We are only recognizing what has long been practiced out in the open," said Councilmember Martha Montejano, who modeled the regulations after those in Monterrey and Acapulco. Tijuana's prostitutes have been a tourist draw for more than a century, spreading in recent years from the red-light district to other areas. Before, the few standards that existed were unwritten, making them difficult for authorities to enforce. They included requiring sex workers to undergo regular health exams and get tested for HIV three times a year.
"The idea is to have more control and promote public health," said Montejano. Violators will be fined, and their permits can be revoked. Tijuana's director of municipal enforcement, Bernardo Padilla, said 18 massage parlors have closed since the regulations took effect last month.
However, it remains to be seen whether the new rules will be enforced. The health department's four inspectors have left amid allegations of corruption; city officials say other regulators have been assigned to the task.
The new standards also require brothel owners to cover furniture with plastic or rubber, periodically disinfect the surroundings, and change sheets regularly. Brothels must be at least 164 yards from schools and day-care centers and restrict hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
09.15.05; Elliot Spagat
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.