When we think of HIV we have certain populations in mind. We hear about its ravages on young men and women; on the gay and transgender populations; on the homeless and the intravenous drug user. We seldom think about HIV and senior citizens.
The truth of the matter is that HIV surveillance shows that 11 percent of all new AIDS cases are in people over the age of 50. Statistics also show that new AIDS cases rose faster in the over 50 population than in people under 40.
One factor contributing to this rise is sex tourism. According to our research, more than 10% of all visitors to Costa Rica are sex tourists. And with Southeastern Asian countries like Thailand and the Philippines cracking down on sex tourism, this Central America nation is emerging as a new hot spot for the sex trade.
The U.S. economy is recovering, which is great news for Costa Rica’s tourism sector, which receives 39 percent of its visitors from the United States. On top that, the Costa Rican Tourism Board recently released tourism stats for 2013, which showed a 3.6 jump in the number of tourist visits over 2012. Costa Rica welcomed some 2.4 million tourists during 2013, an increase of 3.6 percent compared to 2012, the Costa Rican Tourism Board. (ICT) The expectation is another spike in travelers this year.
Sexual tourists spend their days having sex in such hotels without having to step out of them. The large concentration of mongers and sex workers in a few hotels must be taken into account as part of the Costa Rican excitement. One walks into them and is struck by the number of both sex workers and clients. It adds a sort of legitimacy to an activity that is liminal. It creates a culture that not only shares its liking for paid sex but also its life philosophy.
There is a growing sense of identity. First of all, sex tourists have created a non- pejorative definition of their practice that excludes terms such as "sex tourist" or "sex depredator."For them, men who pay for sex are "whoremongers", a word that is shortened to "mongers." The dictionary defines monger as "A person promoting something undesirable or discreditable." A whoremonger is a man who likes paid sex.
Mongers do not see anything wrong in their preferences for young women who sell sex. They are aware that most people do is not just a sexual practice anymore. A monger’s additional trait, besides the attraction toward paid sex, is his rejection of committed relationships. Mongers are usually middle-aged men, but others come in different types and shapes. Many consider themselves unattractive and old, but this does not mean they can’t find sex back home. On the contrary, many mongers report being sought by their American female counterparts and many do have sex with them. So, if they get infected in these countries, they will probably infect also their wives and partners back home.
Many of these sex tourists have missed the safe sex revolution because they were in monogamous relationships back in the United States. Some have not used a condom in years and others have never used one. Others have rekindled their sexual life thanks to the new sexual-enhancing drugs.
It is not difficult to anticipate that they will face serious communication problems with women who are usually half their age and from a different culture. Despite their lack of command of the Spanish language, they want to talk and share their emotions and thoughts with others. They want the women to be in touch with their feelings and hidden thoughts. In order to have romance, mongers spend time in buying perfumes, flowers and chocolates. They also use scents and candles to enliven the sexual relationship. They seem to be the ones responsible for seducing cold and materialistic women, who only want to use and exploit them. By "feminizing themselves" they become easy prey to some sex workers who get pregnant as a means to trap them.
Mongers do not disclose their names, profession, and place of origin, marriage status, age or income. In fact, most of them accept their age only until the 60’s. "Don Paco says he is in his late fifties"- says Juanita, a sex worker- "but I think he means he was born in the 1850’s." Mongers and sex workers also lie about their sexual practices. Sex workers conceal the number of clients they have, the number of times they have done unsafe sex and the diversity of sexual practices they have engaged in.
Simulation is different from lying; it is more a theatrical act than a denial of a known fact. In one of the threads, a monger asks whether the sex worker´s love is real since she needs some cash. Another sex tourist responds: They always call you "mi amor." That means "stupid gringo asshole" in español. They are very good at making you thinking they really love you. By asking for more money at the end of the night she is proving what she really sees in you...a big fat walking ATM card. Don't be that stupid. But when you are in simulation mode, it is easy to fool yourself. Despite what his friend replied, the man writes back that he thinks this woman is different from the others and that he will send her money anyway.
An estimated 1.9 million adults and children are living with HIV in this area. The sex industry in Costa Rica attracts many sex workers from countries that have higher rates of HIV. As both the Costa Rican and the foreign sex worker are mostly middle class, their occupation is hidden from health officials. Therefore, in case of having HIV, they are not taking retro virals that might reduce infections. No wonder the percentage of infected women in Costa Rica has risen from 7% of the total in the early 1990s to 20% of the total today.
Mongers explain that sex workers have bareback sex as a sign of trust and intimacy. Mongers don´t want just sex, they want to have what they call the Girlfriend Fantasy Experience (GFE) which is synonymous with emotional involvement. When sex tourists get into this relationship, the first casualty is condom use. People who love each other according to monger culture have bareback sex as a sign of intimacy. 50% of mongers have had unsafe sex in Costa Rica.
Sex tourists usually call Costa Rica a new Disneyworld. It is an eroticized place for seniors to play games not easily attainable in the United States. Men who otherwise are smart, educated, business –savvy and quite insightful about life in America, become more like children in fairy land, surrounded by beautiful women who help them forget their real obligations back home. This exceptional time lived in the tropics is wonderful for relaxation and fun but it takes them to a mental state of denial and the problem of fantasy land is that you see no evil, including HIV.