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5 October 2006
Big Increase In Sex Worker Numbers
by George Atkinson

A new survey from the United Kingdom has revealed some disquieting trends in regard to prostitution. Published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, the researchers noted that the number of men who reported paying for sex doubled in the decade from 1990 to 2000. In percentage terms, this equated to nearly 10 percent of men saying they had paid for sex in the previous 12 months.

While these figures relate to the UK, the researchers believe they represent a reasonable assessment of the numbers in other Western nations. In fact, the numbers could be considered on the low side given that past studies have found that 40 percent of men in Spain and 73 percent of men in Thailand report paying for sex.

The article cites a number of driving forces behind the dramatic rise in prostitution, including:

  • A bigger demand created through higher divorce rates rise, people traveling more, and adults spending a greater proportion of their lives living alone.
  • An increase in the number of sex workers through migration, unregulated labor and coercion.
  • Enhanced communication technologies like the Internet; allowing sex workers to advertise internationally without restriction and consumers to read online reviews and contact sex workers instantly.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the survey was that nearly half the men (43 percent) who paid for sex had a partner at the time. Other findings regarding the men who paid for sex in the UK included:

  • Around 15 percent of the men reported in engaging in unprotected vaginal sex at some time.
  • Engaging in unprotected anal sex was reported by 4 percent of the men.
  • Unprotected oral sex was reported by 27 percent of the men.
  • Most of the men reported paying women for sex, with only 4 percent saying they paid men for sex.

Worryingly, men were much more likely to engage in unprotected sexual acts when they traveled internationally, particularly to countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. And it seems that playing away from home has its consequences. About 20 percent of the men had a sexually transmitted infection. The main offenders were chlamydia, gonorrhoea and non-gonococcal urethritis. A small number of men had genital herpes and/or genital warts but all those tested for HIV were negative.

The researchers cite the high prevalence of unprotected oral sex as their chief concern. Men known to have purchased sex in the UK were almost twice as likely to have paid for unprotected oral sex and half of these were in long term heterosexual relationships. The researchers add that there is a lack of awareness in the heterosexual population that oral sex alone can facilitate the transmission of syphilis, herpes and HIV.

Based on material from Sexually Transmitted Infections

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