Sex workers and HIV

In Thailand, HIV prevalence is far greater among male sex workers than female. In 2014, of the estimated 147,000 sex workers in the country, HIV prevalence was approximately 12% among male sex workers and 1% among female sex workers.20 However, urban settings have shown to yield exceptionally high HIV prevalences among female sex workers, as high as 20% in Bangkok, for example.21

Data from 2013 suggests female sex workers account for 10% of all new HIV infections in Thailand.22. This may be the result of a lack of information about HIV or a lack of access to services. For example, a 2015 UNICEF study of young key populations in Thailand found only 31% of young female sex workers in Bangkok and 50% in Chiang Mai had received any HIV-related information or services in the past 12 months, compared to 80% of the other key populations surveyed such as men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs.23 The same study found that, of the young female sex workers surveyed, only 12% in Chiang Mai and 18% in Bangkok had tested for HIV in the past 12 months.

Globally, transgender people are the most at-risk group of sex workers, with HIV prevalence estimated to be on average nine times higher than for female sex workers and three times higher than for male sex workers.24

Transgender people and HIV

There are more than 75,600 transgender people living in Thailand. In Bangkok, Chonburi, Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Phuket, the median HIV prevalence among this group was estimated at 12.7% in 2014, making transgender people a particularly at-risk population.25

A large proportion of transgender people also sell sex making them increasingly vulnerable to HIV.26 For example, a 2015 study by UNICEF found 39% of young transgender people had sold sex.27

In 2014, data from the five areas above found condom use among transgender people to be at 84%. Around 59% of transgender people in these areas were accessing prevention services and 34% were testing for HIV. Chiang Mai was the only city where testing had increased over time, from 22% in 2005 to 43% in 2014.28

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KEY POINTS

  • Thailand has one of the highest HIV prevalences in Asia and the Pacific, accounting for 9% of the region’s total population of people living with HIV.
  • Although the epidemic is in decline, prevalence remain high among key affected groups.
  • Thailand is the first country to effectively eliminate mother to child transmissions, with a transmission rate of less than 2%.
  • Thailand hopes to be one of the first countries to end AIDS by 2030. However, to achieve this significantly more young people and key affected populations need to be reached.

Explore this page to read more about populations most affected by HIVHIV testing and counselling programmesHIV prevention programmesantiretroviral treatment availabilitycivil society’s roleHIV and tuberculosis (TB)barriers to preventionfunding for HIV and the way forward for Thailand.

Of Thailand’s population of more than of nearly 70 million, it was estimated that 480,000 people were living with HIV in 2018 and that 18,000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses.1 After sub-Saharan AfricaAsia and the Pacific is the region with the largest number of people living with HIV, with Thailand home to a large proportion of the region’s HIV positive people.2

Thanks to successful HIV testing programmes, Thailand has reached the first 90 of UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 targets as 91% of people living with HIV in 2016 were aware of their status. Of those people who know they are HIV positive, 80% were on treatment, more than 95% of whom were virally suppressed. Overall, this equates to 75% of all people living with HIV being on treatment and 73% being virally suppressed.3

 

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