Malaysians warned, HIV risk in South

The Malaysian state of Perak has warned Malaysian men travelling to Thailand's southern border provinces that they are at risk of being infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a local newspaper in Malaysia reported on Tuesday.

According to the report in Kosmo, a recent study showed a rise in the the number of Malaysian men who contracted HIV after visiting Yala's Betong district, Narathiwat's Sungai Kolok district and Songkhla's Hat Yai district.

However, Betong health official Wongwit Akarawarothai said the Ministry of Public Health has been giving twice a year medical check-ups to women who work in the sex industry.

"If we find women who have Aids or other sexually transmitted diseases they will be treated and not be allowed to work in the sex industry again," Mr Wongwit said.

"The women should ask their clients to wear condoms every time they have sex, but we have learned that the women and their clients are usually drunk and they forget to use condoms."

Chalermpol Polmuk of the Metta Dhamma Raksa Foundation at Wat Phrabat Nampu, a shelter for Aids patients, said local tour agencies and guides admitted some foreign tourists wanted to go to brothels or massage parlours.

He said the government aimed to achieve two trillion baht in tourism revenue between 2012 and 2015. Therefore, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) had to find ways to generate more revenue.

"One of the marketing strategies the TAT is using is to attract the GLBT group, comprising gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transexuals, because they have high spending power and the market continues growing," Mr Chalermpol said.

He asked whether the government or the TAT had preventive measures against the spread of HIV.

"Are we going to reap the money without caring about the problem of Aids?

"Today our country is full of tourists with high-risk sexual behaviour like swinging, sandwich and full moon parties. Are they not enough?

"Selling sex for money is illegal [in many countries] abroad, but in our country it's easily accessible and we're making it even more accessible," Mr Chalermpol said.

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