Officials who track aids say Cuba has done a better job than most countries at corralling the quick shift ford escort disease.
For more than a decade, the government has run an intense public-education campaign in schools and on state-owned television and radio stations, promoting the use of condoms and informing people about how HIV is transmitted.
The low levels of the virus in Cuba and the inexpensive price of sex compared with other places have made the island a destination for male tourists seeking women.Cuban health officials acknowledge that the number of infections has increased, as in most countries, but they say the overall rate is very low for a population of 11 million.That is not to say the disease is not spreading in Cuba, and some outside the government say a thriving sex industry has contributed to its spread.In the early 1990s, Cuba quarantined people with the virus, and those discovered to be infected are still required to stay three to six months in one of Cubas 13 government aids sanitariums, where they receive treatment and counseling on how to survive with the.For the most part, the women who work as prostitutes say they are looking to link up with someone who can take them out of Cuba, or provide them with a steady income.Like many prostitutes who ply their trade in the darkened bars and discos near Havanas tourist hotels, Maria says she does not go out every night.Embargo, where monthly state salaries do not buy enough food for a month, had pushed them into the business.I would marry someone to get out.Many are part-time prostitutes, who go out only when their meager state salaries run out.
But they quarreled on a subsequent visit, she said, and now she is on the hunt again.
Most work for themselves, and on most days, they say, they can count on 50 to 75 from Europeans, plus meals, drinks and gifts.But some women said they kept relationships with pimps to pay off the police.When I am with a foreigner, I try to be with them for the whole time they are here, she explained.And her sister, Yamilet, two young women from Camaguey province, were showing off their legs and midriffs to tourists who approached the club, hoping someone would invite them in for a drink or take them to a rooming house for the night.Prostitution is not an aggravating problem in the epidemic, said.Maria, who is 36 and insisted that her last name not be published, said she worried about contracting aids and forced her clients to use condoms, every time.The government periodically cracks down on prostitution, they said.Cuba has the lowest infection rate in the Western Hemisphere, less than.1 percent of the population, according to the World Health Organization.Most of the tourists come to look for girls, tobacco, you know, the things they cannot get in their country, she said.
Hermita, 28, a secretary at a school who earns about 8 a month, was trolling for tourists near the Hotel Inglaterra in Old Havana on a recent evening.
She has a 2-year-old daughter from a marriage that did not last, and she said she needed money for food, clothing and shoes.
Maria., 23, said she gave up working as a hairdresser and started sleeping with tourists two years ago.
Around.m., young women in skimpy attire begin gathering outside the main tourist hotels, asking men if they would like to go to nightclubs, where a sex-for-cash proposition is usually made.
A decade after an economic collapse forced thousands of young women and men into prostitution, Cuba has become something of an anomaly in Latin America: a destination for sex tourists where aids has yet to become an uncontrollable pandemic.