Sunday, June 20, 2004

Ja: Tourism and AIDS

JUST OVER 40 per cent of visitors to Jamaica say sex is important in choosing this island paradise, a soon-to-be released study has found. And clubs and hotels in at least three of the major tourist areas are said to be facilitating sex tourism without the adequate preventive interventions. In the study, commissioned by the University of the West Indies HIV/AIDS Response Programme (UWIHARP), researchers interviewed 500 tourists in Jamaica and the Bahamas and found that a significant percentage (28 per cent) used their trip to each country to find new partners. In addition, it found that many teenaged male tourists see the islands as ideal locations to find girls with whom to lose their virginity.

"I know guys who will go to a club with $5,000 in their pocket, take a girl into the private lounge and have sex with her and come out, and the girl will say yes cause she knows she's getting the money for it," Terrence, an 18-year-old European, living in Jamaica and a club patron, told the team that carried out ethnographic work in Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios and Nassau in the Bahamas.

In addition to the tourists, 60 in-depth interviews were carried out with people living with HIV/AIDS, health workers, HIV/AIDS activists, human resource managers and policy makers. Although the study did not categorically state that the 41 per cent of visitors to whom sex was important in choosing the island did have sex, the researchers believe this may be a contributing factor in the high number of HIV cases on the tourist belt.

"I cannot definitively say that high numbers of HIV in the tourist area is linked to sex tourism, but I can say if you look at all the factors, there must be some impact. Tourism does promote interaction in ways that other industries do not. One would expect that it is easier to engage in sexual activities ­ all evidence point to tourism as a contributing factor to the high numbers. It is not the only factor, but it does contribute," principal researcher Dr. Ian Boxill told The Sunday Gleaner.He explained that the extent of the contribution of tourism to HIV/AIDS growth is something that can be disputed as there is not enough data available.
This reminds me of when I used to go to Barbados to mark papers for CXC. A couple of times I stayed at the Rockley Resort, not far from which was the most delicious beach.

I used to watch tourists act out romantic scenes on the beaches and in the water with young, tightly-muscled, Bajan hunks. At first, I thought they were inter-racial honeymooning couples ... until I saw one of the young hunks playing out the same scene with a MUCH older woman.

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