KINGSTON — The harsh economic climate has been cited as one of the factors driving an increase in Jamaican youths exchanging sex for money, according to the 2012 HIV/AIDS Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviour Survey.
Transactional sex – one of the riskiest forms of sexual encounters involving the exchange of gifts or money for sexual intimacy – was cited in the report as being especially high among young Jamaican men and women between 15 and 24 years old, who are in both live-in and non-cohabiting relationships.
Casual sexual relationships among youths was seen to also be on the increase, with 52 per cent of those surveyed being in casual relationships, as opposed to 44 per cent in 2008.
The survey, which was done between January and February, shows an increase in the number of youngsters involved in, or supportive of getting gifts like cellular phones, clothing and jewellery from multiple partners in exchange for sexual favours.
The survey showed that those actively involved in this behaviour, or supporting in their attitudes, moved from 39 per cent in 2008, to 42 per cent in 2012.
The changes have sounded alarm bells for those working to control the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“The prevailing harsh economic climate has continued to impact the HIV epidemic, making the young increasingly vulnerable to high-risk practices,” reads the executive summary, which also points to the disturbing decline in condom use.
“What is even more disturbing, however, is that only 50 per cent are protecting themselves in these situations by using a condom all or most of the times, and 69 per cent of those who do not now use a condom have no intention of changing.
“Similarly, 19 per cent of those who use condoms sometimes, have no intention of using a condom the next time they engage in these high-risk transactional encounters,” the report said.
“Faced with growing economic challenges, there is a high risk that the patterns observed with casual and transactional sex could become a worrying sign for the national HIV programme,” noted the report.
It is estimated that there are 32,000 persons living with HIV in Jamaica. (Observer)