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Farley / HARMS OF PROSTITUTION

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In another egregious case of misguided public health policy, Hernandez (2003) investigated the trafficking of Mexican girls to brothels near San Diego where criminal networks control at least 50 brothels including outdoor sexual exploitation camps for migrant farm laborers. During a 10-year period, hundreds of ado- lescent girls from rural Mexico were either kidnapped or tricked into crossing the U.S. border by coyotes, traffickers, and pimps. These girls were sold for sex acts not only to hundreds of farm workers who were transported to camps where they sexually assaulted girls in prostitution but also to U.S. tourists and U.S. military personnel.

A U.S. physician who worked for a clinic that provided health care to migrant workers said, “The first time I went to the camps I didn’t vomit only because I had nothing in my stomach. It was truly grotesque and unimaginable” (Hernandez, 2003). Many of the girls were 9 or 10 years old. On one occasion, the physician counted 35 men paying to rape a girl during a single hour. After she reported the girls’ sexual assaults in prostitution, the physi- cian was instructed by U.S. public health officials that prostitution was not a migrant health concern. Advised by her superiors to work with the pimps, she limited her practice to “prevent[ing] HIV/AIDS and other venereal diseases in the exploited minor girls” (Hernandez, 2003). It is frankly criminal to address only STD/HIV and to ignore child and adolescent physical abuse, rape, kidnapping, trafficking, and child prostitution. Yet in public health clinics and STD/HIV clinics, this tunnel vision is the rule rather than the exception.

Bernard Trink, a U.S. expatriate living in Bangkok who is an avid customer of prostitution, writes weekly columns in the Bang- kok Post about the Thai sex industry. Trink is an unlikely critic of groups such as SWEAT, NZPC, Cal-PEP, or EMPOWER in Bang- kok, but he does not mince words when asked about the effective- ness of groups working against HIV among prostitutes:

EMPOWER is a bullshit operation . . . they’re working on AIDS dis- crimination, which is fine, but it doesn’t help the women. For them it is only money. The only thing that would move them out [of prostitu- tion] is a job that pays as well [italics added]. (Bernard Trink, quoted by Bishop & Robinson, 1998, p. 184)

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