Connect with us


Phuket health workers battle HIV/Aids, STDs – and social stigma

Legacy Phuket Gazette



Phuket health workers battle HIV/Aids, STDs – and social stigma | Thaiger

PHUKET: It’s no secret that prostitution, while illegal, is rife on Phuket.

While most public agencies turn a blind eye to the reality, the Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO) however, continues to run its ongoing campaign to ensure sex workers have voluntary regular health checks.

On the front lines as head of the PPHO’s HIV/Aids division is Eam-orn Kittitornkul, a 22-year veteran of public health work in Thailand.

Ms Eam-orn and her team do not debate the legality of prostitution, nor do they lecture on morality; they simply go out on the streets once a month to educate and check the health of scores of women on Phuket engaged in the world’s oldest profession.

The officers have one goal in mind: protecting the women’s health. They conduct regular checkups, educate on safe sex practices, and conduct free blood testing for HIV/Aids.

It has proved a challenge to get women to come forward and have the checkups. That takes trust, and trust takes time to develop.

“The relationship between female sex workers and public health officers and volunteers has been more than just friends for a while now,” says Ms Eam-orn.

“We’re like family. This helps us to convince them to get health checkups,” she explained.

Statistics add weight to her argument: In July 2009, there were 6,457 people in Phuket known to have HIV/Aids. As of July this year, that number had risen to 6,951.

That’s 494 new HIV/Aids cases “arriving” in the province in a single year – more than one per day.

According to PPHO statistics, 93.1% of those in Phuket with HIV/Aids contracted the condition through unprotected sex.

Adding to the problem is an array of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) present on the island.

An estimated 80% of reported STD infections occur through heterosexual sex, but that only includes cases the PPHO knows about. Many more cases are treated at private clinics.

To encourage more women to step up and undergo health checks, Ms Eam-orn and her team recently ran the Phuket part of a national campaign launched under the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The campaign included road shows in four major tourism and economic areas – Bangkok, Chonburi, Chiang Mai and Phuket – with the aim of breaking down the social stigma faced by female sex workers.

The program asserted that by not looking down on themselves, female sex workers would be more likely to take better care of their health, which would lead to fewer incidences of STDs.

The number of STD cases reported to the PPHO in Phuket has fallen from 558 last year to 429 this year.

In Phuket, Ms Eam-orn and her team took the campaign to the heart of Phuket Town’s sex industry: Phun Pol Rd Soi 11.

They spoke to the women and showed a short film highlighting that female sex workers have the same human rights as others and should not let their occupation shame them into avoiding medical services.

Sao (not her real name), a 36-year-old sex worker originally from Suphanburi, said, “I know that society looks down on us all the time, but whether we feel insulted by it is up to us. I normally come for health checks about twice a month, or if possible once a week.

“It is important to look after our health, such as by using condoms. I have to be careful and refuse customers who ask to not use one,” she added.

— Sittipong Nongkaew


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 hours ago

20 year old arrested for online alternative vaccine scam

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 hours ago

Delta variant now the predominant strain, 78% of Thai infections

Coronavirus (Covid-19)8 hours ago

Controversial food delivery only rule faces criticism

Sponsored17 hours ago

Tour Phuket’s Islands with 5 Star Marine

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Drugs10 hours ago

Expat arrested on drug charges allegedly claims to be a local “Robin Hood”

Thailand11 hours ago

Thai Airways selling 10 properties to raise capital

Best of11 hours ago

The 5 Best Cafes in Koh Samui

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand12 hours ago

Thailand News Today | record Covid deaths, ban on ‘mass gatherings’ | August 4

Coronavirus (Covid-19)12 hours ago

Vaccine updates for expats; hospital extends hours to accelerate vaccinations

Guides12 hours ago

8 things to do correctly in Thailand

Best of13 hours ago

Thailand’s 5 most absolutely luxurious hotels

Myanmar13 hours ago

Myanmar envoy updated to Brunei’s 2nd Foreign Affairs Minister

Thailand14 hours ago

Thailand’s national parks ban the use of some sunscreens containing particular chemicals

Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 hours ago

Wednesday Covid Update: 20,200 new cases, provincial totals

Guides14 hours ago

Visa Exemption Rule – 56 countries to enter Thailand without a visa

Coronavirus (Covid-19)15 hours ago

Third phase testing successful for Vietnam Covid-19 vaccine

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism5 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8