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A new study documents the stark health dangers of the male sex trade in the streets, hotels, and discotheques of Mexico City. Lead author and health economist Omar Galárraga’s point in making the grim assessment of the legal but perilous market is to find an incentive that might reduce the spread of HIV and other diseases in the nation’s community of men who have sex with men.
"It’s a very highly at-risk population," said Galárraga, assistant professor of health services, policy and practice in the Brown University School of Public Health. For the study, published in the Journal of the International AIDS Society, his team conducted interviews and infection tests with 267 male sex workers who come to the city’s Clínica Especializada Condesa.
Sexually transmitted infections are prevalent among the workers, the study reports. In the sample, 38 percent had HIV, 21 percent had syphilis, 10 percent had chlamydia, 3 percent had active hepatitis B, 2 percent had gonorrhea, and 1 percent had hepatitis C.
Many of the sex workers were not aware of or were confused about their health status. Of the 100 confirmed by testing to have HIV, 14 did not know if they had it, 11 said they did not have it, and another 16 didn’t want to say (even though they agreed to testing). Similar rates applied to the other diseases.
The high prevalence of disease (and the lack of personal awareness) is serious because the workers make many sexual contacts every week. On average, the sex workers reported engaging in sex with more than four paying customers and about three non-paying partners in the week prior to their interview. The sex partners were almost always male.
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