March 1st, 2007
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Keywords: Mplus, male sex worker, chiang mai
Mplus works with adult gay, transgendered, and male sex workers in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to promote community and HIV/AIDS awareness. Mplus staff and volunteers are often recruiting and conducting outreach even on their off-hours as they socialize or purposely visit bars to spread awareness of the organization. (at right: program director monthian)
According to Drop-In Clinic Manager Pad Thepsai, many main-stream doctors and nurses don’t understand or accept the gay/transgender/male sex worker lifestyle; Mplus has become a ‘second home’, he says, to this client base. Once a month they have a Gay Movie Night, they have a free internet cafe, mini gay-centric library, and a free drop in clinic for sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV screening. Pad also states researchers from 50+ countries have visited Mplus to learn about their client base.
A 2005 study conducted with the Thai Ministry of Public Health and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimate in that in Chiang Mai the prevalence of HIV amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) was 15.3 percent, transgendered (TG) was 17.6 percent, and for male sex workers (MSW) it was 11.4 percent. Mplus estimates 95 percent of male sex workers in Chiang Mai are heterosexual. (at left: a client gives a blood sample for HIV screening)
Mplus, and data collected by the Thai Ministry of Public Health in 2003, seem to indicate that roughly half of Chiang Mai male sex workers are immigrants of which more than half are Shan from Myanmar. Along with being in an economically depressed region, the Shan are one of the groups being persecuted by the Myanmar government; many illegally immigrate to the more prosperous Thailand.
In spite of the illegal status of prostitution in Thailand, according to a study by the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Anthropology, in Chiang Mai the number of establishments catering to gay clientele, where male sex workers often find clients, has grown from eight in 1994 to approximately 35 today. (at right and below: Mplus staff out with the boys at a karaoke bar)
Along with HIV/AIDS education and outreach in parks and bars, Mplus also hopes to be a resource for heterosexuals; through this they hope heterosexuals will be exposed to the the gay/transgendered/male sex worker lifestyle which will result in normalization of this lifestyle for heterosexuals.
Mplus is looking to partner with an International NGO to grow and be a source for research.
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