The earliest record of an HIV carrier in Thailand was made in 1984. At that time, the government was not alarmed. Basic measures were taken to combat this fatal disease, and were targeted on high-risk groups, like prostitutes and drug users. The rise in the number of infected people, particularly those in the sex industry happened in the late 1980s. From then on, the disease began spreading at an alarming rate. Since the disease was thought to be brought by foreigners, the government’s HIV testing campaign in 1988 was targeted on foreigners alone.
It was only in 1991 that a major AIDS prevention program was carried out, a move that curbed the spread of the epidemic. The government pushed for condoms to be used and be made available to the public. Condoms were given free to sex houses, and non-use of this contraception tool can lead to the closure of the establishment. According to AVERT, an international AIDS charity group, without that program in 1991, Thailand’s number of carrier could be ten times higher that the current estimate of 580,000 HIV carrier at the end of 2005.
The government’s funding for free condoms was scaled back due to economic strains. In its place, authorities introduced a combination treatment of antiretroviral drugs for treatment of HIV carriers. This therapy, known as Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy, has significantly lowered the AIDS mortality rate in Thailand. By the end of 2005, AVERT reported a 1. 4% prevalence, down 2% compared to figures more than a decade ago. Sex Tourism 14 Conclusion
Prostitution in Thailand has long been in existence and does not seem to decline in the near future. As time progresses, poverty and consumerism have pushed women, men, and children to engage in the only craft that would take them in even if they have no education and no marketable skills. The absence of capital punishment and the generally tolerant society contribute to the industry’s continuance. Meanwhile, abuses and crimes against children, women and men exist as a result of prostitution’s prevalence.
The Thai government, in response to international pressure, has stepped up its efforts to combat sex tourism in the country. But since the industry generates revenue for the country, it is trying to find balance on how to properly address issues while at the same time protect a revenue source. A popular adage that says sweeping the dirt under the rug comes to mind in relation to this attitude. However, the government seems intent on the discontinuance of child prostitution in the country, a move that could prove more beneficial in the long run.
By providing vocational training programs to minors and by extending the minimum years of mandatory education, the government is helping children avoid poverty and ignorance — two major factors in prostitution. Ultimately, it is the poverty, the lack of education, the exploitative ways of traffickers and promoters, and the continued patronage of the moneyed tourists that made Thailand’s sex industry notorious all over the world. While demand is present, sex tourism will continue.
Thailand has a long way to go to shed its reputation of being the world’s sex capital. Its hope lies on the success of its overall economic development agenda, health care projects, educational programs, social services reforms, and the availability of an alternative revenue-generating industry that could take the place of sex tourism.
Asia Watch and The Women’s Rights Project (1993). A Modern Form of Slavery, Trafficking of Burmeses Women and Girls into Brothels in Thailand. Retrieved November 21, 2007, https://www.hrw.org/reports/1993/thailand/