The good news first. In the past four years, the number of college-going males visiting commercial sex workers has gone down. The bad news: the trend is because youths seem to think they have a lesser chance of contracting HIV/AIDS if they have sex with their girlfriends, irrespective of their partner’s history.
In a shocking disclosure, college boys across the state believe that only sexual intercourse with commercial sex workers, and not girlfriends, makes them vulnerable to HIV/Aids. The findings of a study conducted by the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) indicate that this misplaced notion could accelerate the spread of the disease in Maharashtra.
The Behavioral Surveillance Study carried out over a period of four years since 2004 revealed that youngsters also prefer girlfriends to commercial sex workers as they are lighter on the pocket.
The percentage of students visiting commercial sex workers declined from 23% in 2004 to 5% in 2006 and 3% in 2008. In the same period, the percentage of youths having sex with casual non-commercial sex partners or girlfriends increased from 11% in 2004 to 16% in 2008.
“It’s a major shift in the sexual behavior of collegians,” said Jayanta Basu, manager, monitoring and evaluation, FPAI, Mumbai, and study convenor. A total of 2,276 boys and 1,098 girls from 100 degree colleges in Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Sangli, Satara, Solapur, Aurangabad, and Nagpur were surveyed.