Sexual Risk-taking Behaviour and HIV Transmission in Thailand
The Kingdom of Thailand is located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia, and as a tourist destination welcomed over 371 thousand visits from UK citizens in 2012 alone. However, in addition to possessing incredible natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage, there is a great deal of poverty, driven largely by substantial economic and social inequalities. The country also has the rather unenviable reputation of being one of the most important destinations in the world for sex tourists, particularly for European and Asian men. Although prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand, paid-for sex remains available to men in a variety of different settings, both formal and informal. The go-go bars found throughout the district of Patpong in Bangkok, and within the city of Pattaya and the island of Phuket, are amongst the most popular (and infamous) venues for sex tourists, however, the purchase of sexual services by tourists occurs throughout the length of Thailand, in bars, massage parlours and on the street.
Where there is sex there are also sexually transmitted infections, the most important of these being HIV. Condoms are an effective way to help prevent the sexual transmission of HIV, but In 2013 Manieri et al. found that amongst the the of the Western men that they interviewed in Thailand, 20% were planning to engage in sex with female sex workers without the use of a condom. The study authors reported that because of their age (over 40) they should have been exposed to the peak of Government safer-sex messages during the 1990’s, and so their planned decision to engage in unprotected sex must have been driven by other, undisclosed factors.
The focus of my current research is to try to understand why some largely well-educated Western men appear to be engaging in high-risk, unprotected sexual activity with female sex workers in Thailand. By gaining a fuller understanding of this behaviour it is hoped that future health promotion interventions may be better targeted towards this liminal but important group of men. Two journal articles have so far been published from this work and are available to read in the 'Writing' section of this website.
Manieri, M., Svensson, H. and Stafstrom, M. (2013). Sex tourist risk behaviour - An on-site survey among Swedish men buying sex in Thailand. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 41(4): 392-397.