Fans heading to South Africa for the World Cup 2010 are interested in more than soccer. Anticipating that sport tourists will frequent prostitutes while they're in town, health experts are calling on the South African government to legalize prostitution for the tournament. The hope is that testing and registering legal sex workers will reduce HIV infections among visiting fans and South Africans alike.
In South Africa, approximately 50 percent of sex workers are HIV-positive. While this figure might be enough to dissuade cautious would-be customers, experts figure that the party atmosphere, fueled by alcohol, will lead to much promiscuity. In fact, South Africa has been anticipating a surge in prostitution demand for some time now. More than a year ago, police unveiled plans to legalize sex services for the 2010 games, arguing that Germany opened safe and easy "adult entertainment centers" during the 2006 World Cup. These plans have been rejected so far, for reasons including concerns about greater transmission of HIV, but if legalization means screening sex workers for HIV, it could make things safer.
No matter what happens, let's hope South Africa can use the World Cup to raise awareness about HIV testing. If that happens, everybody will walk away from the tournament a winner.