Oldest profession casts a dark shadow

Young, often having a secondary school education or higher degree and in dire economic straits – such is the profile of prostituted women, radically changed over the past decade by the influx of foreign economic migrants, that emerged from a survey carried out by the National School of Public Health (ESDY). Using statistics from the period 1991-1998, the study aims to examine changes in prostitution and the dangers of the transmission of AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. «The number of foreign prostitutes is growing all the time, while the number of Greek prostitutes is correspondingly dropping,» professor of epidemiology of ESDY, Anastasia Roumeliotou, told Kathimerini. More and women are involved in prostitution without a license to practice. Violence and exploitation are the conditions of work in the sex industry. The women do not know the language, have no contact with the outside world, have no way of getting information or access to public health services and have serious economic problems which drive them into a state of personal and social misery. The study found that from 1995 to July 1997, 44 unregistered sex workers had been infected with the AIDS virus. The average age of the women surveyed was 26 and they had all finished junior high school or a technical college. The countries of the former Soviet Union, especially Ukraine, were the chief country of origin (43.2 percent) while all had been infected with the HIV virus in Greece. The phenomenon is probably much more widespread since these women – doubly illegal since they reside in Greece without papers and engage in prostitution without a license – are afraid of approaching public health services. «The aim of the survey,» said Roumeliotou, «is to help shape a suitable political health policy to protect these women, taking into account the new state of affairs and their individual rights. It is self-evident that such a policy contributes to the protection of public health in this country.»