PETALING JAYA - 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.
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.
Home-based sex workers a challenge to HIV prevention work
There are no statistics available but the home-based sex industry is seen to be on the rise and is proving to be a challenge to stem due to it being less visible than regular sex work.
Joselyn Pang, director of the Malaysian AIDS Council Global Fund Project, said the industry is growing partly because the Internet is now a popular medium of communication and mobile phones are widespread along with traditional word-of-mouth recommendations.
But these methods which make it easier for home-based sex workers to ply their trade is also a major stumbling block to organisations trying to help them and offer them health screenings and keep them safe.
"They are mobile and difficult to find," Pang said. "This situation impedes HIV prevention work because we don't know who they are and when we do, it is sometimes harder to find them."