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Many prostitutes, migrants don't use condoms regularly
(Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-28 09:23

Prostitutes and migrant women need more access to sex education to reduce the spread of sexual disease and cut down on the high abortion rate in Shanghai, a sociologist told a forum on women's studies.

A woman reads condom use promotion booklet before a blown-up condom at a Beijing campus. [Reuters]

Xia Guomei from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences surveyed 40 women involved in prostitution in the city about their exposure to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and what steps they take to protect themselves.

All of the prostitutes were between the ages of 17 and 45, and 70 percent of them are migrant women.

Thirteen of the forty women said they have caught an STD, and four of the prostitutes admitted to being regular drug users.

"In my study, 22.5 percent of the women don't know condoms are an effective protection against AIDS," Xia said. "Present sex education in the city's outskirts, where many migrant and poor people live, is not adequate. Moreover, these women have a poor educational background and seldom learn information from the media."

About 10 of the women survey had some understanding of sexual disease, but they didn't all use effective methods to protect themselves.

"These women have a strong relationship with their peers," Xia said. "Many just go to unlicensed clinics or take antibiotics regularly as health protection, following their friends who are involved in the same business."

Xia said only five of the 40 women surveyed insisted their clients use a condom every time, while another 16 would try to use condoms but go without if their clients didn't want to use one.

Xia also warned yesterday that many migrant women know little about reproduction, which has led to a high abortion rate.

In 2000, 4.68 percent of married Shanghai women of reproductive age had undergone an abortion at some point in their life, Xia said. But 22.65 percent of single migrant women had undergone an abortion. Xia couldn't provide figure to compare married local women with married migrants, or singles with singles.

Experts surveyed 405 single migrant women undergoing abortions at four hospitals in 2002.

Forty-six percent said they had undergone at least one prior abortion, and one 15-year-old girl claimed to have had five abortions within a year.

About 23.4 percent said they didn't know sex could result in pregnancy, or how contraception works.

"Above 45.5 percent didn't know neighborhood committees can provide contraceptive education and tools," Xia said.

Health experts said the government should work out more practical education courses for the city's migrant population that take their limited education into account and create a more friendly environment for learning about sex and contraception.

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