Men reported being at risk of HIV in many ways, including the unavailability of speciality health services, the premium clients placed on unprotected sex, violence and the lure of substance abuse. Although the work often placed them at risk of substance and physical abuse as well as HIV infection, the researchers found that it also provided the men with a sense of freedom and empowerment.
The report cautions that mitigating these risks may require specialised HIV prevention services unlike those targeted at female commercial sex workers or men who have sex with men (MSM).
A series of interviews with male sex workers at a five-country workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa, and country visits to Kenya and Namibia has produced a significant addition to the paucity of data on male sex workers, according to Paul Boyce, a UNDP researcher.
While data on MSM from Malawi, Namibia and Botswana indicated that about 17 percent were HIV positive – almost twice the national prevalence rates of their respective countries – not much has been written on the specific HIV risks of male sex workers, which may be higher than those of MSM.
While male sex workers reported working at a range of venues, including Namibian truck stops and Zimbabwean mines, most of the available information on male sex work has come from those operating in the sex tourism hot spot of Mombasa, Kenya, with limited data from a 2009 study in South Africa that showed male sex workers were twice as likely to engage in anal sex than MSM who were not selling sex.
Not necessarily the same old risks:
Unprotected receptive anal sex carries almost 20 times the HIV risk associated with unprotected vaginal sex.
Interviewees told researchers that the unavailability of water-based lubricant, which reduces the risk of condoms breaking during anal sex, and the higher financial reward of unprotected anal sex, made consistent condom use difficult.[If an item is not written by an IRMA member, it should not be construed that IRMA has taken a position on the article’s content, whether in support or in opposition.]