Ziteng AIDS Day- Press Release (31-03-2005)

Today is the World AIDS Day. For the last ten years, the Hong Kong government has been increasing the resources and funding on the prevention and treatment of AIDS. Yet its confusing and contradictory policies have nevertheless facilitated the spread of AIDS in Hong Kong, making the effort on the epidemic futile.

Although the AIDS infection rate in Hong Kong has been low, the increasing population mobility between Hong Kong and Mainland China, resulted from the Individual Visit Scheme, has increased the risk of the spread of AIDS. Compared to the last season, there has been an 80% increase in AIDS reports (13 cases) and a 50% increase in HIV infected individuals (73 cases), revealing a worrisome trend.

According to the Ministry of Health of the PRC, there are approximately eighty thousand AIDS infected and 1.5 million HIV-positive individuals in China. The increase of infection will remain high in the next ten years. It is estimated that by 2010, the number of HIV infected in Mainland China will reach 10 million. With the increasing ease of Mainland-Hong Kong exchange, the AIDS crisis in China will be a threat to Hong Kong.

Earlier this year, Ziteng has conducted a survey on 108 sex workers from the Mainland in Hong Kong. The results show that msny of these sex worker were farmers (49%) aged between 31-40 (57%). More than half of them (53%) worked away from home for the first time, most were referred by friends (71%) and were self-employed (92%).

On the use of condom, over half (52%) of the sex workers surveyed did not insist on using condom, for fear of arrest and prosecution because of its possession (82%). Another major reason for them not to use condom is the refusal of their customers (71%). Moreover, 37 sex workers reported that they had been fraudulently accused by the police, with condoms as the prearranged evidence. All these discourage sex workers from using condoms, forcing them to have unprotected sex. Among those who have contracted STD, most of them would try to solve the problem on their own rather than seeking professional medical assistance. Many would buy medicine for self-treatment (65%), while some would wait until they get home for cure (27%).

The frequent abuse of power by law enforcers also poses a threat to Mainland sex workers in Hong Kong: 39% of the sex workers surveyed had been beaten in the police station. Many of the arrested were rejected the right to make phone calls (82%), forced to sign testimony (71%), verbally threaten (64.5%) and stripped naked (24%). Apart from the dishonorable practices of law enforcers, they were also exposed to other menaces, such as rape (11 cases), imposture of the police (16 cases), non-paying customers (31 cases) and harassment from gang members (21 cases).

Faced by the current crisis, not only did the Hong Kong government fail to implement measures to cope with the risk form the increase of human mobility, the risk of AIDS infection has actually increased because of its contradictory policies. For example, the police and immigration department frequently use condom as the evidence to arrest visitors for breaching the condition of stay, which discourages sex workers from carrying and using it.

The Hong Kong Government should deal with the problem head-on by enhancing inter-department communication and cooperation so that they can carry out truly effective AIDS prevention strategies.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Promote the use of condom, especially among men
  2. Stop using condom as evidence to prosecute sex workers
  3. Provide STD prevention and testing services to control the spread of AIDS and other STD
  4. Implement thorough AIDS prevention policies that involve multiple departments to ensure effectiveness
  5. Set up an independent complaint and investigation system to ensure the accountability of law enforcers, eliminating any case of unjustified arrest, abuse of power and infringement of justice
  6. Eradicate the discrimination against sex workers and recognize their right to work