Readers' Submissions

The Devil In The Dark

In a taxi cab from Bangkok to Pattaya once, the driver insisted on giving me a sermon on the dangers of AIDS in and around Pattaya. I thanked him for his cautionary verb-age but had heard it all before and had already been 'bombarded' by it from my own country prior to my visit. Maybe he was telling me that because I indicated it was my first visit but it was not my intention to do anything stupid. Like any foreigner though, common sense can desert you when faced with some many choices and girls so beautiful and available, so we're all at risk, no matter how careful we intend to be, or think we are.

Of course, he was right, there is a very real risk, and one that you can't normally see with the naked eye, unless you visit the hospitals and clinics of Thailand inundated with AIDS patients waiting to die. Of course, this isn't the type of thing Thailand's tourism industry is eager to show, and is much hidden from view, unless you go searching.

Like in any developing country or third world nation, socio-economic pressures are partly responsible for the upsurge in AIDS cases, and whilst Thailand isn't third world, its AIDS problems are approaching them, perhaps proportionately so.

Sheer poverty in the rural districts fuel the gogo bars and bar beers with young women eager to make a buck, but also equally ignorant of the dangers of AIDS further compounded by poor education and dire financial situations. She often has little idea of what AIDS actually is or how it's transmitted when she first starts working, and often receives her 'education' on the job, and from her co-workers sharing their experiences. It's hard to say how much time and effort the bars make to alert their girls to the risks, but efforts are minimal, and even non-existent in the poorer bars and brothels of Bangkok. In the more commercially run bars of Patpong and Nana Plaza, you sometimes see girls wearing plasters on their arms or butts signifying they've been tested for all STDs. Some bars test their girls regularly and pay for the expenses so as doctors can't be bought off and give false test results by the individuals.

In some cases if found to be infected with a 'normal' STD, a girl might be laid off for a while until cured, or 'relegated' to working behind the bar, instead of in 'front of it' as it were. "I have pee-liod" she might claim….

You can only begin to imagine the agony experienced by a girl, should she be found to be HIV positive from a test, and the subsequent catastrophic changes she will be forced to undergo. If the bar in question has any consideration of its business and customers, she will be forced to quit, notified of her HIV status and fired. For a girl [or boy] in this industry to be found HIV positive is a daunting prospect and she immediately loses all normal social contact with her friends and colleagues. She may be forced to take up another employment whereby she's not a 'risk' to anyone, but her future is often very grim and a form of 'social death' takes place long before any symptoms begin to manifest themselves. Imagine a life suddenly without a future?

Herein lies the danger of HIV in that it is not discernible and carriers / recipients often look perfectly healthy, even months after infection, and it can be 3 months before the infection even shows on a blood test. So there is a latent danger and HIV can literally be a time bomb waiting to explode, as 7 years is often the 'incubation period' required before symptoms begin manifesting themselves, or full-blown AIDS to be evident. At this point, the human immune system begins to 'break down' and any normal ailments can become serious. Even colds and flu bouts can turn into Pneumonia as we well know.

Social economic pressures often force Thai women and men into this profession, and those same pressures perpetuate and compound the problem, as often a girl who knows she's at risk or is in infected, continues working, albeit in another less 'strict' bar…. Quite often, her own pecuniary 'needs' outweigh the risks to her customers, and she may or may not use protection, as quite often customers sometimes 'prefer it that way'. In some cases, customers [Japanese men sometimes] will pay a higher price for this seemingly dangerous practice. It's also very hard in times of extreme passion to suddenly stop and get protection if not already worn, it's a very difficult thing to do sometimes as 'mild offence' can sometimes result. It's a hard call to make, but do it, believe me, it will save you from a world of hurt.

Apart from protection from the usual and embarrassing STDs, a condom will help prevent AIDS or HIV, – it's earlier form and derivative. Note I said "will help" as it is yet to be proven that condoms completely protect you from risk, due the HIV virus genome being soooo small. The tiny microscopic pours in a normal condom are like a double-door way of entry to the HIV germ, so condoms only really dramatically 'reduce the risk' and not eradicate it altogether…. On the plus side an HIV germ only lives a very short time outside the human body, like 3 hours tops.

Worryingly though, HIV often 'piggy-backs' on the infections of other less serious STDs and a case of VD or herpes for example can spell trouble of a different kind much later on. With HIV, a person with herpes for example might suffer a 'systemic failure' whereby the ulcers prevail over all areas of their body, rather than the normal localised skin lesions or ulcerations and genital ulcers. Any skin ailment for that matter, becomes much worse as the body's immune system breaks down and is weakened.

There are various forms of herpes or HSV {Herpes Simplex Virus} which attacks various parts of the body, genital herpes being the most common after contact with an infected person's genitalia. A condom might not always be effective, as mouth-to-mouth infection isn't uncommon if a person has a skin or facial cold sore manifestation for example.

Walk-in street specialist clinics are highly adept at diagnosing and treating STDs, almost on-the-spot, while-U-wait! – that's what they specialise in, particularly in high-risk 'sensitive' areas whereby the sex industry flourishes, – for bar girls and farang alike. For the novice farang, be careful about walking into just any clinic, take a close look and avoid some of the cheaper grubby looking back-street ones as the diagnosis + treatment is as likely to be as painful as the symptoms!

Healthcare for foreigners is generally good to excellent in Thailand, sometimes a little overly enthusiastic at times, and be prepared to walk away with a veritable carrier-bag full of medicines and potions! Your wallet may be about Thai baht 4,000 lighter ($100.00) but the peace of mind is worth it.

Thai doctors generally are quite liberal with their prescriptions and use the 'blanket attack' method, which means you may well find yourself with 2-3 different antibiotics!! Remember, early diagnosis and treatment pays dividends, if only to thwart the onset of something nasty before returning home…. So if you feel yourself going down with something, get it seen to quick! After all, you only want to go home with a few souvenirs, nothing 'else'! – right?

It can be the height of excitement to be in the dark with a beautiful and exotic girl, but you don't know her history no matter what promises she makes and no matter how beguiling she is. Take heed of others' experiences with these girls. When sleeping with them, you have to take into account all their previous partners, and then, their partners in turn, so it's like sleeping with untold anonymous numbers at any one time with an unknown girl. One session of unprotected intercourse could literally be like sleeping with up to 100 people [of various races!] at one time baring in mind the unknown number of times she's made unprotected love and how 'experienced' she is. The risk of contracting an STD or worse, HIV, and multiplies exponentially as it were as times goes on without her / him being tested, – doubly so if she's very promiscuous and doesn't take precautions. Or, taking into account those occasions whereby the condom has broken or come adrift during copulation.

The above too, are conservative estimations…. It's pointless wearing protection if she's kissing you as well as erm, blowing you with the condom [already] contaminated with her bodily fluids, no matter how erotic this might seem. STDs can be transmitted orally just as easily, even HIV in this particular scenario.

It's Russian Roulette in the extreme whereby two chambers out of every five are 'loaded'.

It's probably fair to say that intravenous drug taking and homosexuality are probably the highest risk factors and 'cause' in the "industry" as we'll call it now. Often girls will take drugs to 'blot out' the more unpleasant parts of their job, sleeping with foreigners. "Yaba" (Yar-bar) or wacky-bacci is the usual way [narcotic Cigarettes] but some take the high risk of using the needle. It's as wise to check someone carefully upon first meeting by chatting to them, looking closely at their skin and into their eyes, a first giveaway sign if they're doing drugs. If she doesn't smoke at all, there's a good chance she doesn't do drugs, but smoking and Yaba go together pretty much hand-in-glove, so watch out.

Whilst chatting to a girl for the first time, get a feel for her character, [No, not that kind of 'feel'!] examine her eye's closely for signs of drug taking. Often a 'glazed expression' is a dead giveaway, and if she appears 'stoned' drop her then and there. Look for needle track marks on the inner crux of her elbow or upper arm, and yes, between her toes…. Drug takers will take all measures to avoid detection, and injecting themselves between their toes is hard to discern. Never never perform 'cunnilingus' on a woman unless you've known her 'years', no matter how much she might plead with you, it's a sure way to guarantee a visit to the VD clinic and you may have something nasty manifest itself on your face and / or mouth for all to see…. "Pass the cold sore please?…."

In spite of drugs being illegal and there being severe penalties, it's rife and rampant throughout Bangkok or Pattaya, fuelled by porous borders and the Golden Triangle passage of illegal drugs. Any girl who wants it can get it very easily, and beware as she might be in possession if you take her back to your Hotel room. You could possibly be implicated, or she could implicate you if she's angry with you for some reason….and she gets caught.

Some nefarious farang do drugs too, even trafficking it in what is a drugs haven seemingly, and they might even be 'pimping' for some girls, desperate to remain in the land of smiles on their meagre incomes due to their own habits. Some farang that have hit bottom are worse than any Thai criminals and will pull all sorts of ruses to remain, sometimes stealing form other unsuspecting farang…. This is perhaps a most 'odious' sort of foreigner, and one who gives us a very bad name, and they seem quite impervious to the fact they risk severe penalties if caught. Some young-ish American guy once proudly told me how he was 'doing drugs' in Pattaya and that he went to sleep with 2 beautiful girls every night, who 'worked for him' Needless to say, I tired quickly with his patter and left. "Pimps" as such are completely and utterly superfluous in Thailand, and 'parasite' would be more an appropriate word. I would even question the virtue of those foreign national dating agencies and their practices as been exorbitantly expensive. There's nothing like buying a ticket, jumping on a plane and finding out for yourself if you're a little adventurous, with first hand experience.

However taking into account the often less-than-honest approach by some Thai women towards Farang, then perhaps dating agencies have their virtues after all. (?) Comments?

Did anyone see that British made TV movie, "Filipino Dream Girls" starring Bill Maynard (From "Heartbeat" TV series, starred with Nick Berry) A funny parody on the seedier side of international dating agencies and well worth a look-in, about a bunch of unlikely's going to Manila to find prospective Brides they'd seen on Video in England.

It's a sad fact that the girls more than often, if and when they become infected, have been so by some customer. Not pointing the finger at any cause or nationality particularly, but it has to be said customers from third world nations and some of the Islamic cultures whereby hygiene isn't top priority, bare some brunt of the blame. Controversially here, the girls too are lied about a man's background, and you've only got to look around the nearest go-go bar and see the broad racial band of customers. You could inadvertently end up 'having slept with some of them' by default if the same girl you're seeing has been very 'busy' – a sobering and horrific thought at best….

This can be the case in the local gogo bars that farang don't often patronise and are only visited usually by Thai's. The Thai's have their own separate 'bar scene', quite different to the more commercially 'glitzy' go-go bars of Nana, Soi Cowboy and P/P. The girls that make up these bars are almost considered the 'elite' of their profession in terms of earnings, and the Farang generally treat them far better, than lowly 2nd class citizens at Thai men so often do.

The object of this submission isn't meant to be some more yet, "drum banging watch out for AIDS campaign", – but a simple reminder to be careful, and isn't one of those interminable "AIDS meets Armageddon" messages that the AIDS lobbyist's would have drummed into us, and that we're all going to die a horrible lingering death…. (!) Some of the scare stories I've read about however really do make you think, – and sometimes its takes a scare like that to make you really sit up and listen. I'm sure there are some Farang out there who 'think they're immune' or something, maybe even some bar girls too. There are some Farang ex-pats who foolishly claim to have repeated sexual encounters without any protection whatsoever, who claim a dose of non-specific urethritis (NSU) is all they catch. (A common non-serious urinal infection, unless untreated.) Meanwhile god knows what they're spreading themselves to unsuspecting bar girls, who in turn infect other 'trusting' customers. This odious bunch of ex-pats would serve us well by leaving Thailand altogether.

For those of us who have never come to any real physical harm through any STD, it may be a case of good luck more than anything, but then for some, the clock is unknowingly ticking away silently inside….

Remember though, watch out for those unseen signs, take time to check out your prospective partner thoroughly if your contemplating a relationship, take up Stickman's 'search options' on someone on his website to make sure if you can. Beware the Devil in the Dark….

Be careful out there?….

Stickman's thoughts:

Yep, it is a minefield out there!