Oldest Profession Flourishes in China
August 7, 2007
China's rapid economic growth has helped fuel a concurrent rise in prostitution throughout the country. "There was no open prostitution 25 years ago. Fifteen years ago, you didn't find sex workers in remote areas and cities. But now it's prevalent in every city, every county," said Jing Jun, a sociology and AIDS policy professor at Tsinghua University. As the number of women entering the trade grows, health experts are increasingly concerned about a rise in STDs, including HIV.
Estimates of the number of prostitutes in China range from 1 million who earn their primary income from sex to eight or 10 times that, including people who sometimes exchange sex for money or goods. Most are rural women who come to the country's increasingly competitive urban centers with hopes of earning a decent living. Some entering the trade are older than those in the past, while some are much younger.
Around 40 percent of female sex workers tested by China's Center for Disease Control (CCDC) two years ago were older than 35, said Jing. "Among sex workers infected with HIV/AIDS, 60 percent are older than 35. That means there are some really desperate women," Jing noted.
STD awareness and HIV education in China remain poor, surveys indicate. Increasing competition means some prostitutes forgo condoms for fear of losing customers. And according to preliminary results from a 2006 survey by the Institute for Research on Sexuality and Gender at People's [Renmin] University, most men who visit prostitutes think STDs are easily cured and no more serious than a cold.
China had 174,506 syphilis reports last year, up 31 percent from 2005, said Wang Quanpei, a CCDC researcher. But because many people with STDs visit unregistered doctors, and because many hospitals that specialize in these diseases are poorly managed, the actual number of infected patients could be 10 times higher, said experts.
8.05.2007; Maureen Fan