Monday, December 1, 2008

AIDS and China's Migrant Workers

On the spreading of AIDS amongst China's poor.

From Reuters:


BEIJING, Nov 30 (Reuters) - The new face of AIDS in China is a shy man with a heavy provincial accent, a weathered face and the rough hands of a manual worker.

Zhang Xiaohu, a character in an educational film for migrant workers, is part of a trend that worries Chinese officials: the potential for AIDS to spread among the estimated 200 million rural migrants driving the country's rapid economic expansion.

AIDS in China has, to date, mostly been limited to drug users, gay men, prostitutes and the victims of reckless blood-buying schemes in the 1990s.

By the end of 2007, China had about 700,000 people with HIV/AIDS -- 0.05 percent of the total population -- health officials said on Sunday, ahead of World Aids Day the next day.

"The epidemic is lowly prevalent in general but it is highly prevalent among specific groups such as migrant workers, and in some regions particularly remote areas and the countryside," said Wang Weizhen, deputy director of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment at the Ministry of Health, according to state media.

Read On

Migrant workers in China often will leave their home for months or years on end. It's not surprising, as the article goes on to say, that in big cities like Beijing there are more and more people and places beginning to cater to the new inhabitants of those cities: ie. cheap prostitutes.

Prostitution is endemic in Xi'an. Within a twenty minute walk of my apartment, there are literally dozens of places one could go to get prostitutes. I know this from the pink lights emanating from seemingly every hair salon once night falls, not from the experience of actually having visited the women myself.

I might be completely off base here, but it seems to me as though prostitution is more acceptable in Xi'an than it is in the cities I've lived in in America: Kansas City and St. Louis. It is very possible that I'm just oblivious to America's prostitution, but I'm sure that the prostitution that goes on in the mid-west cities I've inhabited is not as blatant as it is in Xi'an. Between the loose women in dance clubs and the pink-lit salons dotting Xi'an's streets, there are literally endless opportunities for those looking to buy sex.

Since I've never visited these women, I'm not 100% sure about how much they cost. But one night in a taxi, the driver was telling me that they could be had for 50RMB, or about $7.

The plethora of cheap prostitutes found in China's enormous cities combined with millions of men working hundreds of miles away from their homes does indeed sound like the perfect recipe for debauchery and a public health crisis.

1 comment:

matt said...

interesting, i'll b visiting xian this summer for a few months... no background 4 me in china (except in hong kong)... however, i do speak/write japanese fluently so that might help me some