High price to be paid by those who pay for it

The statistics on AIDS were compiled from September 1995 to July 1997. During this period, 44 prostitutes, aged from 20 to 33, said they had been infected with HIV. Twenty-nine volunteered the information themselves, while for the other 15, the information was furnished by their pimps, friends, or bar owners and was then confirmed by the women. For most, the test was a chance affair (they went to the doctor for some other reason), though it was carried out with their consent. Of the 44 HIV-positive prostitutes, 41 believed they had been infected after 1993. Nineteen of them were from countries of the former Soviet Union, chiefly Ukraine, 12 were Greek, six from non-European countries (Thailand, Sri Lanka), four from Albania, one from Bulgaria and two were European, but of unknown nationality. Roughly half the women believed they had been infected through intravenous drug use (heroin) and the other half through sexual contact. Greek prostitutes are gradually being displaced by foreign-born ones. According to the ESDY survey, the number of Greek prostitutes dropped by 23 percent over a period of five years, while foreign prostitutes increased by a staggering 600 percent. The average age of foreign women in prostitution tends to be lower than that of the Greeks, they are paid less, and use condoms less often than Greek women, all of which makes them more attractive to clients. Foreign women who are offered jobs in bars, and ultimately wind up working exclusively for the sex industry, face serious problems, of which the most important is the lack of communication with Greek and foreign colleagues imposed by procurers so that they are kept in conditions of absolute dependence and obedience. Violence «Violence, exploitation and human rights violations typify these women’s lives,» the researchers are at pains to stress. «Lack of knowledge of the language and the age of the women – often under 18 – aggravates the situation. As a result, they are cut off from state help, which might safeguard their health and that of society as whole.» In contrast to foreign prostitutes, most Greek prostitutes work independently and are integrated into society, since they keep their profession secret. Greek women whose sexual partner knows, and accepts, their profession will be more economically dependent on their partner. Professor Roumeliotou pointed out that «the entry of foreign women into the sex industry has changed the map of prostitution in Greece and other European countries. These are good-looking, cultivated girls, often with higher education, especially those from the former Soviet Union.» Over half (50-55 percent) come from Eastern Europe (Ukraine-Russia), 40 percent from the Balkans (chiefly from Albania), while a small percentage come from Western Europe, America, Asia and Africa. Almost all prostituted women from Albania, and a significant proportion of prostituted women from the former Soviet Union are under the control of fellow-countrymen, who exploit them and force them to serve a large number of clients without a condom, and undertake other sexual, unpalatable practices.