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General News of Monday, 25 December 2000

Source: The Nation( Thailand ) -By JEERAPORN CHAISRI

African men a new niche in sex trade -Ghanaians Involved

"BOY", a sexually experimental gay man, visits Sukhumvit Soi Nana on lonely nights when he craves physical contact and is willing to pay for temporary intimacy with a handsome guy.

He makes goo-goo eyes at African men standing on sidewalks and in front of bars until he finds his type: big, black and broad-chested.

Boy said a friend's recommen-dation in June led him to seek the services of African men on Soi Nana.

"I was so bored with all my partners and the same old scene in the gay bars around Bangkok. One day after work, I complained about how I felt to my friends. They then invited me to join a party for which a friend of mine had ordered an African male escort," Boy said.

Since then, Boy said that whenever he has the time, he walks around Soi Nana and Soi Cowboy (Sukhumvit 23). The prostitutes' prices range from Bt2,000 to Bt6,000 depending on the location. If he orders from an escort service, it is more expensive than going straight to the street.

However, these prices are often negotiable excluding accommoda-tion and drinks, he said. African male prostitutes are fairly popular among gays and wild older women because of African men's "size", Boy said.

These men usually look for clients who drive luxury car makes such as Mercedes-Benz, Lexus or BMW, he said.

The sex workers wink at potential customers as a signal of their availability. The best time to look for them is 2am to 3am, Boy said.

Some of the men, however, don't seem to be fully aware about the dangers of HIV.

Boy said that when the African men had sex, they were not at all strict about using condoms.

Srivipa Jongcharoen, 47, who runs a beer bar on Sukhumwit where some African men and their clients hang out, said the clients may be either men or women, Thai or foreign.

The sex workers predominantly come from Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, and Senegal. Most live in the Sukhumvit area, particularly around Soi Nana. They enter the country with a tourist visa and work illegally. The African sex trade has existed in Thailand since the economic recession, she said.

"All their clients are exotic sex lovers. They love to have bizarre sex experiences, which these African men can provide. Their endurance is one of their charms," Srivipa said.

Senator and HIV activist Jon Ungpakorn said the customers should be aware of the HIV-Aids danger and should use condoms every time they have sex.

"Where are these Africans from? If they are from the south, the risk is even higher. One-fourth of all people from South Africa and Zimbabwe have HIV. Nigeria's rate is high too. Therefore, safe sex is important," he said.

Nowadays, too many Thais ignore this advice, he said. In fact, about 50,000 Thai people contract HIV each year, the Ministry of Public Health said. That means more than 100 Thais get HIV every day.

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