HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean

Sex tourists from the United States and Europe may be fueling an HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean, according to a recent study.

The island region is second only to sub-Saharan Africa in number of HIV/AIDS cases and sexual contact between Caribbean male sex workers and male tourists may be a much larger contributor to the epidemic there than previously thought.

The research conducted a study of about 300 male sex workers in the Caribbean-using the Dominican Republic as a test subject-and how their bisexual behavior impacts the spread of HIV.

The study showed that most male sex workers are unemployed from rural areas and then immigrated to tourist areas. A handful of the subjects identify themselves as sex workers, and most have other income from the tourism industry.

Because of the social stigma associated with AIDS, the subjects often do not talk with their female partners about their involvement in prostitution. This means that the risk of HIV may be high among women as well.

The research adds that in Latin American culture, where Dominican Republic relates, homosexuality is so stigmatized that men who engage in homosexual prostitution cannot speak out without becoming social outcasts.

Many are married, but do not tell their wives about their sex work or homosexual behavior, and many of them do not use condom consistently especially with their female partners.

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