Condom Use by Sex Workers Drops When With Sweethearts

Condom use among prostitutes in the entertainment industry remains high with clients but low in more affectionate relationships, data show.

About 82 percent of women working in karaoke bars, massage parlors and beer gardens reported that they consistently used condoms with commercial clients over the past three months, according to a 2010 survey, said Chhea Chhor­vann, deputy director of the National Authority for HIV/­AIDS, Derma­tology and STD.

However, only 40.5 percent of the female workers said that they always used condoms with sweethearts, ac­cording to data across five provinces from the 2010 Behavioral Sentinel Survey. “It is always a concern for us to see low condom use,” Mr Chhorvann said on the sidelines of the third Phnom Penh Sympo­sium on HIV/AIDS. “Our first priority is clients, then if we have a budget we can work more on sweethearts.”

The crackdown on brothels after the anti-human trafficking law ap­proved in 2008, which pushed sex workers into entertainment venues and underground, had not significantly reduced condom use with clients, he added.

High-risk sexual behavior among entertainment workers in Cambodia has evolved to include semi-transactional “sweetheart” relationships characterized by affection and trust, said a study by NGO Population Services International dated October 2009.

About half of the 1,000 women surveyed from karaoke bars, beer gardens and massage parlors in Phnom Penh reported consistent condom use with sweethearts over the last three months, according to the survey, which noted that 93 percent of respondents said they always used condoms with clients.

“We know low condom use be­tween entertainment workers and sweethearts is a driver of the epidemic,” said Long Dianna, director of strategic information at PSI Cambo­dia, noting that most workers have relationships with multiple clients and sweethearts at the same time.

The level of trust and length of the relationship were associated with decisions to use condoms or not, she said. “They see if it is safe or not safe based on behavior, background and trust.”

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