The number of teenage boys who have visited prostitutes is on the rise, a trend that has researchers worried as some do not use condoms consistently, may catch sexually transmitted diseases and go on to infect their girlfriends. In the first-ever study of Singapore youth who have had sex with prostitutes, it was found that about two in five of the teens surveyed had paid for sex. The interviews were conducted with some 300 heterosexual boys aged between 16 and 19 who went to a government specialist clinic that treats sexually transmitted infections (STIs), between 2009 and 2014.
In earlier cohorts of boys who went to the Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections Control (DSC) Clinic between 2006 and 2009 and were interviewed, only 15 per cent said they had intercourse with prostitutes. Associate Professor Wong Mee Lian – working with Adjunct Professor Roy Chan and Dr Martin Chio at the clinic – invited new teenage patients at the clinic each year since 2006 to be part of their research. The doctors wanted to understand their background and behaviour which could put them at risk of contracting an STI, and find ways to reduce infection rates among the young.
Prof Wong, who is with the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore, said the jump in the proportion of teens who visited prostitutes is significant. While the findings cannot be generalised to represent the population of teens who are sexually active, she said they do suggest that it has become more common recently for teenage boys to pay for sex.