Among OFWs, seafarers are reported to be the most HIV/AIDS infected group.
Why? – is a particular ‘viral’ question which researcher Ernesto R. Gregorio Jr., MPH of University of the Philippines Manila has fathomed the answers. On his case study entitled ‘Seafarers’ Lived Experiences Aboard International Shipping Vessels: A Basis for Health Promotion Intervention’, seafarer informants told him these verbatim statements:
“Whenever the ship docks, the women (female sex workers) run after us, the women in Brazil look like our local actresses here (in the Philippines).”
“Even in local ports like in the Philippines like in Pangasinan, Cebu, Batangas Cities, there were women who entered the ship and offered commercial sex. The same was true in Singapore and Thailand, in Thailand, women were already queued up as the ship arrives.”
Select International Teletransport Federation (ITF) published statements about HIV/AIDS can help us understand general reasons why seafarers easily acquire the viral disease.
Let me quote ITF’s remarks.
- Seafarers are away from home for long periods of time while at sea. Their human contact is limited to their workmates. Then, when they dock at port, many want to make up for the loss of contacts during the time on board.
- Seafarers are particularly hard to reach with HIV/AIDS Prevention activities, as they are away from their home countries for such a long time.
- Seafarers also suffer when shipping companies try to cut costs by flying ‘flags of convenience’ from countries which have lower standards for registering ships. This undermines safety standards, as well as efforts to provide good workplace HIV/AIDS policies.
- Women seafarers (on the other hand) are particularly vulnerable, and special care needs to be taken to consider their needs when developing interventions. Women seafarers regularly report sexual harassment and rape.
- On long journeys, relationships between male and female colleagues develop naturally. It is often in these situations that condom use declines even though the partners may not know their HIV status.
ITF strongly adverted that HIV/AIDs is now widely accepted as treat to social and economic development, to national security as well as to fabric of the societies.
In Philippines alone, a Department of Health (DOH) report shows that everyday, 25 Filipinos are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS!