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Sunday, November 30, 2008

JAMAICA GLEANER: Study shows alarming tourist practice

Published in the Jamaica Gleaner on Saturday 29th November is an eye-opening article on tourist traffic, sexual behaviour and the potential for HIV transmission given that behaviour.  Given information available on HIV and AIDS, the numbers shared in the article are somewhat startling.  Scarily, they're likely representative of wider Caribbean statistics which must give us pause here at home given our own Simona Fricker debacle many years ago.

I think I recall somewhere the contempt of Dr. Eric Williams and other early Caribbean leaders for the tourist trade as an income earner.  After Simona and now the study summarised in the Gleaner article, given the clearly displayed disdain for the local populace, one can understand why.

Simona showed us that all it took was one person to spread a killing infection and then leave our social support system to clean up the resultant mess.  Given the potential impact, it's activity more criminal than some nowherian picking up a gun and going on a short-lived rampage.  We can prosecute nowherians for their crimes, and perhaps even see them meet their end in street-style justice.  I'm pretty sure that, given the work of the Medical Research Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago, we can trace the source of tourist infection, but sadly we may not be able to do anything about them and the situations they create except try to take care of our own after the fact.  The Government and your tax dollars at work cover the cost of counselling and comprehensive treatment.

The text of the Gleaner article runs as follows:
TWENTY PER cent of tourists who participated in an HIV and AIDS survey indicated that they have had sex with acquaintances that they met while on their trip to Jamaica, with only 49 per cent reported using condoms.

Within that group, 92 per cent reported that they had between one and four sexual partners while on vacation here.

The study titled HIV/AIDS and the Tourism Industry Fact Finding Survey Report was funded by the Department for International Development UK.

It was produced by Lisa Taylor-Stone, Research Development Specialist at the Jamaica Employers' Federation in collaboration with the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Alliance for the Accelerating of the Private Sector Response to HIV/AIDS in Barbados and Jamaica Project.

The aim of the study was to determine the possible impact that the adoption of HIV and AIDS policies and campaigns would have on the tourism sector.

Resort areas tested

The study, which was launched yesterday at the Knutsford Court Hotel was conducted in the resort areas of Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios and Kingston.

A total of 600 participants were surveyed: 389 tourists and 211 hotel workers.

Additionally, the study revealed that 32 per cent of the tourists, surveyed had sexual contacts with sex workers and 27 per cent with Jamaican nationals who did not fall in the category of sex workers.

Another 23 per cent of sex partners were hotel workers and the others were guests from other countries.

Taylor-Stone said 14 per cent of tourists believed that HIV could not be passed from one person to the other, while five per cent of hotel workers were of the same view.

Meanwhile, the study revealed that hotel workers who perceived HIV as "not serious", were more likely to report never using a condom during sex.

Income earner

The workers said sex with tourists adds to their income. Taylor-Stone said some described the relationship with tourists as business and note that they may have this sort of transaction with several tourists at any one time.

One hotel worker said tourists had the mindset that Jamaican men are well endowed and Jamaican women "can do it good as well".

"It is obvious that the approach to combating the effects of HIV and AIDS on the tourism sector needs to be revisited. Jamaica has sold itself under the sun, sand and sex paradigm for decades and unfortunately this paradigm still saturates the psyche of our visitors," said Taylor-Stone.

Monday will be observed as World AIDS Day. The Ministry of Health estimates that 27,000 Jamaicans are living with HIV and AIDS and 18,000 are unaware of their status.

SOURCE: Jamaica Gleaner, Saturday 29th November 2008
Get tested.  Be sexually responsible.  Keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

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