New York Times Examines New Tijuana Law Regulating Commercial Sex Industry
The New York Times on Tuesday examined a new law in Tijuana, Mexico, that regulates the city's commercial sex industry in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Under the law -- which was approved by the City Council in June -- commercial sex workers are required to be screened each month for HIV and other STDs. To verify that sex workers have been screened, health officials are issuing them licenses that resemble a credit card with a photo. A magnetic strip on the back of the license allows health workers to scan the card with a hand-held device that can determine the card-holder's medical status instantly. "If a person is infected at the time when they read the credential, there will appear a red light that says she cannot work," Manuel Mayor Noriega, who runs the city health clinic for sex workers, said. The regulation also forces brothel owners and hotel owners who cater to commercial sex workers to operate under more sanitary conditions, including covering furniture with plastic, disinfecting rooms and changing sheets regularly. Violators of the law face large fines and risk losing their licenses. Although laws banning commercial sex work remain in place, Tijuana essentially has legalized the industry in an effort to combat the spread of disease, according to City Council member Martha Montejano. "This initiative protects the clients as well as the women," she said. The city's cabarets and tourist bars support the regulation, viewing it "as a form of insurance that might help their members avoid" HIV and other STDs, the Times reports. Since the law took effect in August, the city has closed 18 massage parlors and brothels for violations. According to Noriega, the number of AIDS cases among women registered with the city clinic is down to three this year, and fewer than five cases each of syphilis and gonorrhea have been detected among the women. However, health officials from Mexico's Baja California state, which includes Tijuana, say preliminary data show HIV prevalence in the state might be increasing, particularly among sex workers who are also injection drug users. A study of HIV incidence is expected to be completed in 2006, according to officials (McKinley, New York Times, 12/13).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.