Sexual behaviors of long-distance truck drivers in Thailand were investigated to define patterns and determinants critical to the transmission of HIV. This article reports on commercial, spousal, and other sexual partners and on condom use among 327 drivers interviewed in 1992. Forty-eight percent reported a commercial sex worker (CSW) as their first partner and 87% had contact with a CSW at some time. Median lifetime number of all partners was 29. In the 6 months prior to interview, 35% had two or more partners. Among the currently married, 23% had CSW contact within the past 6 months; 13% had contact with a nonmarital, noncommercial partner; and about 8% reported marital as well as both CSW and noncommercial relationships in the same time period. Over half the unmarried reported sexual relations in the 6 months; 25% reported contacts with both CSW and noncommercial partners. About 40% of subjects visiting CSWs used condoms inconsistently or not at all. Drivers were knowledgeable about AIDS and prevention measures, with some important misconceptions, but self-assessment of risk of HIV showed a negligible sense of their personal vulnerability.
PIP: A 1992 survey of 327 long-distance truck drivers in Thailand revealed a negligible sense of vulnerability to AIDS despite widespread contact with commercial sex workers (CSWs). The study was conducted in Saraburi--the site of three large cement factories. The drivers' median age was 33 years (range, 15-54 years); 83% were currently married. Seven men (2.3% seroprevalence) were infected with HIV. 87% of truck drivers reported encounters with a CSW at some point; for 48%, a CSW was their first partner. In the 6 months preceding the survey, 23% of men currently living with a spouse had contact with a CSW, 13% had sex with a noncommercial partner, and another 8% reported both types of extramarital encounters. 78% of drivers whose first CSW experience occurred before 15 years of age had visited a CSW in the past year compared with 41% of those whose first contact was at 16-18 years and 34.5% of those whose first contact occurred at age 19 years or above. Only 58.5% of truck drivers who reported CSW encounters in the year preceding the study used condoms consistently; 28% claimed occasional use and 14% never used condoms. Only 3% of drivers perceived themselves to be at high risk of HIV infection; 62% claimed to be at no risk. Common were misconceptions about AIDS; for example, 25% felt they could not get HIV from someone who looked healthy.