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Holiday sex with HIV hookers

Friday, 11 May 2012 10:00PM

Flirting with patrons at Paddys Bar. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian
Flirting with patrons at Paddys Bar. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

“Australians are not good,” Lily says, sitting on the floor of a small room in Sanur surrounded by cheap glamour photos taken of her in a bikini.

The young ones are always “mabuk”, she explains, using the Indonesian word for drunk.

And they are often rough.

“I see it at Paddys Bar all the time. They are drunk, stupid and fighting,” she says.

She has sex with at least one Australian tourist each night, picking them up at the iconic Paddys Bar where she pays the staff RP50,000 ($5.43) to get inside and flirt with the tourists.

When she goes back to their hotel, many refuse to use a condom.

And she never tells them she is HIV positive. It’s bad for business.

She is 27 and pretty.

A lock of hair rests across her forehead, covering a small lesion the size of a 10¢ piece. When she is at Paddys, it is barely noticeable in the dim light and drunken haze.

Lily is one of more than 500 HIV-positive sex workers in Bali who work out of brothels in Sanur or trawl the clubs of Jalan Legian or Double Six, either as paid waitresses serving drinks or as party girls on the pretence of a night out.

A _Weekend West _investigation has uncovered a large network of HIV-positive sex workers who work the island’s most popular tourist strip and regularly have unprotected sex with Australian tourists and fly-in, fly-out workers.

In the bars of Kuta, one in four sex workers is HIV-positive.

In Gatsu, on the edge of town, considered the end of the road for sex workers past their prime, the HIV rate is between 49 and 60 per cent and the girls charge between RP30,000 and RP50,000 an hour.

“It fits in with what we’ve been hearing,” AMA WA president Dave Mountain said last night. “People have their guard down but we’ve warned that Bali is a particularly high-risk destination for tourists.

“There are all the ingredients there for a significant home-grown epidemic of STDs and maybe HIVs in the future.”

Bali’s sex workers are based either in brothels in Sanur or “karaoke bars” across the island, small cafes with a karaoke machine, beer and rooms.

Some have a glass window, like a fishbowl, where clients can peer through and see girls by their number. Others work the streets.

Then there are the ones in Kuta who blend in with the bar crowd, either as waitresses or “customers” flirting with tourists.

“Some of the guys think they are picking up a girl. They think it’s a natural attraction in a bar” says Emily Rowe, the Australian project co-ordinator at the Kerti Praja Foundation, an HIV clinic in Denpasar. “Some will be with them for one night. Some will be with them for a week and think they’re having a relationship.

“But these are sex workers.”

According to the foundation’s statistics, one in four of these girls in Kuta is HIV-positive.

“Lots of these women are supporting family or it’s time to pay the rent or they’ve got to pay off the motorbike so they’ll take risks,” Ms Rowe says. “Or they’ve had 10 guys that night and can’t be bothered to go through the whole negotiation thing and will have unprotected sex. It can be quite exhausting for them, especially if the guy is drunk and doesn’t want to listen.”

On the second floor of the clinic, Bunga, a 31-year-old bar girl from Sanur, says she found out she was HIV-positive in 2009.

“I was really shocked. But then I realised that was a risk of the job,” she said.

Did you keep working?

“Yes.”

She was employed as a waitress in a bar in Sanur, earning RP200,000 a month.

She could earn three to five times that in one night if she went home with a tourist.

Lily says she has two children who live with her family in Java.

She sends them money every week. With her poor education, the best she could hope for otherwise was a cleaning job worth RP500,000 a month. It would not be enough to support her extended family.

This is why she doesn’t stop, she says, even when she is weak from her infection.

It is 1.30am on Kuta’s famous bar and nightclub strip. Several of the girls are staggering down Poppies Lane, just near the monument to the Bali bombing, each with an Australian on their arm.

Eddie Bronx, a chubby bald Javanese man who sells magic mushrooms on the corner says it is a nightly procession.

The girls are cheaper the later it is in the night, he says.

There are two losmens just off Poppies Lane – cheap, dirty but rentable by the hour.

“Australians,” he laughs, “they always want girls”.

 

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