Academic journal article
By Le, Mai-Nhung; D'Onofrio, Carol N.; Rogers, John D.
The Journal of Sex Research , Vol. 47, No. 1
HIV prevalence is high and rising in Vietnam. HIV-infected people are present in all 64 provinces and all cities (United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS [UNAIDS], 2008). The number of people living with HIV doubled between 2000 and 2005 to an estimated 260,000 cases. Each year roughly 40,000 people are newly infected with HIV in Vietnam, the vast majority being injection drug users and female sex workers (Ministry of Health, Vietnam, 2005).
Studies from various countries have shown that sex workers are frequent transmitters of HIV, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs; e.g., Campbell, 1991; Day, 1988; Gouws, White, Stover, & Brown, 2006; Lindan et al., 1997; Rosenberg & Weiner, 1988; Tuan et al., 2007; Van den Hoek et al., 2001; Xu et al., 2008; Zhu, Wang, Lin, & He, 2005). For this reason, they are prime targets for programs seeking to prevent HIV, AIDS, and other STIs. However, little research has been done on differences in risk behavior among different socioeconomic classes of sex workers, especially in Asia. Some research has been conducted on female sex workers in Vietnam (Grayman et al., 2005; Johnston, Sabin, Hien, & Huong, 2006; Minh et al., 2004; Ngo, Ratliff, et al., 2007; Nguyen et al., 2004; Nguyen, Nguyen, & Trinh, 2004; Rekart, 2002; Rosenthal & Oanha, 2006; Rushing, Watts, & Rushing, 2005; Thuong, Nhung, Nghia, Tram, & O'Farrell, 2005; Thuy, Lindan, Hoan, Barclay, & Khiem, 1998; Tran, Detels, & Lan, 2006; Walters, 2003), but few studies have examined variations in HIV risk-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors among different social classes of these workers (Giang et al., 2000; Johnston et al., 2006; Minh et al., 2004; Ngo, McCurdy, et al., 2007; Tran, Detels, Hien, Long, & Nga, 2004; Tran, Detels, Long, Phung, & Lan, 2005a, 2005b; Tuan et al., 2007). An understanding of these differences is vital for creating effective, targeted interventions to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.
Vietnam has approximately 300,000 female commercial sex workers, including about 70,000 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's most populous urban center (Chung, 2000). One of every 80 women in Ho Chi Minh City is in the commercial sex industry. Social stratification of these workers is evidenced by differences in their work environments, dress, income, and relationships with clients. As in other countries, call girls are recognized as having higher social status than streetwalkers and brothel sex workers; however, in Vietnam, three additional classes of hospitality sex workers exist between these two extremes. Unlike the better-known classes, hospitality workers provide sexual services away from the workplace. Furthermore, they do not consider themselves to be sex workers because their services are not limited to sex. They do not engage in sex on the job; rather, they use their job to set up appointments for sexual activity.
Low-priced female hospitality sex workers work in blue-collar cafes and bars known as hugging cafes (cafe phe om), hugging bars (bia om), and nude beer bars (bia nhong). The patrons typically are Vietnamese manual laborers or blue-collar workers, such as taxi drivers, seeking beer and sexual activities. Customers and waitresses can hug, kiss, and fondle, but they must go elsewhere for more "intimate talks" (tam su). Middle-priced female hospitality sex workers work in specialty restaurants that cater to Vietnamese middleclass professionals and government employees, as well as low-class Asian foreigners working in the city. These tend to be located in the center of town where there is vibrant commerce. Patrons and employees of these establishments may engage in kissing, petting, and heavy fondling; and, in certain massage parlors, customers and masseuses also may engage in light sexual activities. High-priced female hospitality sex workers work in nightclubs and discotheques (vu truongs), as well as in karaoke bars and up-scale restaurants in the central area of Ho Chi Minh City. …