60-year-old sex worker in Wanhua diagnosed with HIV

Sex worker positive test for HIV spurs fears that several hundred of her customers may have been exposed

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Snake Alley shop in Taipei's Wanhua District. (Image by flickr user 余威廷)

Snake Alley shop in Taipei's Wanhua District. (Image by flickr user 余威廷)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The recent confirmation that a 60-year-old female sex worker in Taipei's Wanhua District has tested positive for an HIV infection has spurred concerns that several hundred customers she served may have have been exposed to the disease.

With an average of 100 customers per month, the woman, who is the first sex worker to be reported as having tested positive for HIV in three years, had served as many as 700-800 since the end of last year to June, according to the Kunming branch of the Taipei City Hospital. Therefore, the hospital is advising those who had unprotected sex in the Wanhua red light district to get tested for HIV.

The woman had last been tested in late 2016, however the most recent test revealed that she is now HIV positive, according to Chuang Ping (莊苹), head nurse at the hospital's sexually transmitted infections (STI) control center. The woman is now receiving treatment at the hospital according to Chuang.

Chuang speculated that because she, like other older sex workers in the district, has less leverage in forcing her clients to use condoms as she is considered less desirable due to her advanced age.

Screening on sex workers carried out by the center over the past few years have showed that young prostitutes are more likely to contract gonorrhea and chlamydia, while older sex workers are more susceptible to syphilis, according to Chuang.

The center is strongly urging those have engaged in unprotected sex with prostitutes in the Wanhua District over the past half year to be tested for HIV. In general, the center recommends people avoid unprotected sex with multiple partners and those who are in a high-risk group to use pre-exposure prophylaxis.