EXCLUSIVE: Sexual transmission of HIV is on the rise, and one factor contributing to this is the increase in the number of sex workers operating from home. They include transgender people and housewives, some of whom ply their trade with the consent of their husbands.
PETALING JAYA: Ti, a housewife and home-based sex worker, has reduced the number of days she works. Initially, it was a daily job. Now, it is once or twice a week because her husband has started working shifts.
Every time she entertains clients, she puts herself in harm’s way because they come to her home or she goes to theirs.
“I protect myself. I keep a knife in my purse just in case. But the men are regular customers, so I know them,” said the 29-year-old slim and tanned mother of three.
Home-based sex workers do not walk the streets or ply the trade in brothels or massage parlours.
They normally hook up with their clients from home using a host of platforms, including personal websites, social networks and mobile phones.
They also do not have pimps.
Ti insists that all her customers wear a condom during sex and she gets herself tested for HIV yearly.
She said the number of her clients has dropped in the two years since she started, which she thinks is due to the police stepping up their action against sex workers and their clients.
Ti’s husband knows what she does for a living because she asked his permission before starting.
“He has asked me to stop but I asked him where will we get the money? He does not earn enough and there is rent to pay and kids to feed,” she said.
Her husband works in a bakery and earns RM900 a month while Ti brings in about RM400.
She previously worked in a coffeeshop, making drinks, and earned RM20 daily, but that job meant long hours and she could not afford a babysitter.
“Of course I am angry that I have to do this type of work. I hate myself sometimes and I cry.
“Someday, I will stop,” she said as she breastfed her youngest child.
Su, 34, on the other hand, started working as a home-based sex worker when her husband abandoned her and she met up with her teenage flame who is an injecting drug user.
He could not bring in enough money to support the family and pay for his drug habit.
The couple have a child and she has three children from her previous marriage.
“I work three days a week and have two to three customers each time. Each session is RM80,” Su said.
She used to work as a cook but, like Ti, could not make enough money to hire a babysitter.
“My husband does not know what I do and I do not work if he is at home. I do not want to work like this but I have mouths to feed.
“I do not know how much more I can take,” she said.
She added that she also always insisted on clients using condoms.
The full-figured woman also undergoes HIV screening yearly. Both she and Ti get it done at their state reproductive health association.
Su’s husband, who is an odd-job worker earning RM50 daily, is
trying to kick his drug habit and is on methadone maintenance therapy.
“I cannot leave him. I love him and he treats my kids as his own. He loves all of us,” she added.
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