South China Morning Post (09.20.03) - Friday, September 26,
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 6
million women in mainland China engage in prostitution. The
first in-depth study of the mainland sex trade found striking
misconceptions among prostitutes about sex, AIDS and other
More than 42 percent say they ask clients to wear condoms, but
if the clients look clean and are good looking, few women
insist, according to head researcher Victor Yuan Yue. For the
study, sponsored by the China-UK HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care
Project, researchers posed as clients and introduced
themselves as marketing researchers for condom manufacturers
when they interviewed and/or distributed questionnaires to 802
prostitutes in Yunan and Sichuan provinces two years ago.
Two in five of the women had never had a health check, and
more than half did not consult doctors when they contracted
STDs - no surprise since prostitution is illegal in mainland
China. "Some believe HIV can be transmitted by mosquitoes,"
said Yuan, and few pay attention to the expiration date on
condoms. He said that clients' willingness to wear condoms was
a deciding factor in whether or not they were used.
A parallel survey of 800 men ages 25-45 in Yunan and Sichuan
found many who said they would pay more for unprotected sex,
and a significant number who believed condoms did not
effectively prevent HIV.
Fewer than one in five prostitutes practiced safe sex with
their husbands or boyfriends. Without effective education, sex
workers could become a huge network for HIV/AIDS transmission,
he added. Yuan said it was important to present sex education
early in school because less than half of the women under 38
had completed junior secondary school.