Commemorating World AIDS Day, which fell on Saturday, Dec. 1, commercial sex workers and transvestites in Central Java promoted the use of condoms among their customers in a bid to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
In Semarang, prostitutes in the city’s biggest red light district Sunan Kuning (SK) conducted a competition to encourage customers to use condoms. The winner would be named the HIV/AIDS ambassador of the red light district.
“Many customers do not want to use condoms, regardless of whether it’s important for health. That’s why workers here have to be smart and encourage customers to use [condoms],” said Suwandi Eko Putranto, head of the SK neighboring unit.
Sekar, one of the contestants, said she joined the contest to show the public that commercial sex workers in SK obeyed the rules.
On the stage, Sekar sung the Julia Perez song “Jupe Paling Suka” (Jupe Likes the Most), which she perceived to campaign on the use of condoms. She then demonstrated how to encourage a customer, played by a representative of the audience, to use a condom. “We have to be really good with seducing the customers, so they are willing to use condoms voluntarily and yet can still feel satisfaction,” Sekar said.
Suwandi said the use of condoms in SK had been enforced since 2001 as part of the One Hundred Condom Success program, also known as Sutra. The program obliges sex workers in SK to use condoms to prevent HIV infection. The sex workers were also trained how to use condoms as well as being educated about HIV/AIDS. No HIV/AIDS cases had been found among SK’s 620 commercial sex workers.
In Surakarta, dozens of transvestites from the Greater Solo area were seen campaigning on condom use at the Bundaran Gladag traffic circle. They said they preferred to campaign for condom use because the free sex lifestyle was hard to avoid, especially for them.
“Condoms have become the key for us to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS,” said Lousiana Margaretha, an activist of the Solo Transvestites Association (Hiwaso). Solo is a popular nickname of Surakarta.
Lousiana said to counter the negative image of transvestites as agents of HIV/AIDS, the group, which has 97 members, had obliged its members to use condoms every time they engaged in sexual intercourse.
Hiwaso chairperson Fernandes Chintya Maramis said some 99 percent of transvestites in Greater Solo were commercial sex workers. “We always commit to secure sexual relations through using condoms,” said Fernandes.
He said in 18 years in his profession as a commercial sex worker, he had always used condoms because he was aware the work was vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.