GHIC 2015: Global Health & Innovation Conference
March 28-29, 2015
Yale University, New Haven, CT

Unite For Sight's 2011 Global Health & Innovation Conference

Blog Report by Chung-Sang Tse, Unite For Sight Global Health Leadership

"Ethnography of Health Issue and HIV/AIDS Prevention Programs in China's Urban Sex Industry," Tiantian Zheng, Professor of Anthropology, State University of New York, Cortland

Social Enterprise Pitches are ideas in the brainstorming or early implementation stage. Selected participants presented their new idea in the format of a 5-minute social enterprise pitch. Following the pitch, there was a 5-minute period for questions and answers, as well as feedback from the audience. The presenters were directed to focus their presentations on the problem that they are working to solve, the evidence basis for their idea, the expected impact, as well as plans for measuring outcomes, and not just outputs.

In a culture where women are often disadvantaged, Tiantian Zheng, a Professor of Anthropology at State University of New York, discovered that female sex workers often prioritize financial benefits over health risks. In fact, she observed these conditions firsthand during her three years of ethnographical research on China’s sex industry; she became a karaoke hostess to get an intimate view on the realities faced by the red-light industry workers. One of her research interests is on the prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission, a topic that faces many challenges. In China alone, the sex industry has traditionally placed onus on female sex workers to ensure the use of condoms to prevent pregnancy and HIV transmission. Male clients, however, believe in spontaneous and passionate sex and do not want to “ruin the moment” by fumbling with condoms. Tiantian also notes the drawbacks of other HIV/AIDS transmission interventions, such as female condoms (expensive and unpopular) and liquid condoms (falsely-advertised and ineffective). In light of these social realities, Tiantian proposes that a new intervention – focused on the emphasis of sex education among clients – is necessary to drive behavioral changes and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.