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Glimpses of AIDS and male prostitution.

Glimpses of AIDS and male prostitution

A 13-month study of male prostitutes,commonly known as hustlers, indicates these men court infection with the AIDS virus mainly through intravenous drug use and unpaid homosexual activity, not transactions with their clients.

Social anthropologist D. Scott Wilson of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque conducted in-dept interviews on sexual activity and AIDS knowledge with 14 hustlers and 11 of their clients living in Denver in 1989 and 1990. Wilson has also interviewed 59 Denver hustlers in a larger study of male prostitution.

Hustlers typically described myths and fantasies about AIDS, even when they possessed a fair amount of factual knowledge about the disease, Wilson says. Most erroneously believed they could avoid contact with AIDS-virus carriers because infected individuals display obvious physical symptoms, he reports.

In contrast, hustlers' clients -- family men whose only homosexual contacts involved male prostitutes -- had a more realistic view of AIDS risk and safe-sex options, Wilson says. Most of their sexual activity with hustlers involved low-risk oral sex rather than high-risk anal sex, he notes.

Hustlers maintain a strictly homosexual orientation and undoubtedly have a high rate of infection with the AIDS virus, Wilson asserts. Their unpaid homosexual encounters often involve anal sex without use of a condom, he finds. "And almost all the hustlers I've talked with are dependent on intravenous drugs and shoot up frequently," he adds.

The culture of street hustlers remains largely unexplored, Wilson points out. Only careful, repeated interviews can cut through the lies and wishful fantasies hustlers construct as they speak to a researcher, he maintains. Moreover, he says, these prostitutes have few contacts with other hustlers and offer mostly unreliable information about their colleagues.

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, social workers have trained some male prostitutes to pass on information about AIDS prevention to other prostitutes, says Richard G. Parker of the State University of Rio de Janeiro. Effective AIDS education requires targeting specific groups of prostitutes, Parker argues.

For example, two types of male prostitutes work Rio's streets. "Hyper-masculine" hustlers consist of poor, bisexual youth who occasionally engage in prostitution with homosexual clients. "Hyper-feminine transvestites" engage in full-time prostitution, usually with men who have wives or girlfriends.

Hustlers, transvestites and their clients clearly have the potential to infect unsuspecting partners with the AIDS virus, Parker contends.
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Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 15, 1990
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