Increase in HIV cases must not be blamed on tourism


I came across a news item in which the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) disclosed that illegal mining is a major factor in the increase of HIV/AIDS infections in the country. The Director-General of the GAC, Dr. Kyeremeh Atuahene, also indicated that tourism may increase infection rates in the country. In stressing his point, he referred to a recent study that assessed the impact of national resource extraction projects on HIV transmission risks in local communities in sub-Saharan countries, including Ghana. It reports that mine openings increase the odds of HIV infections almost two-fold: Mining activities, particularly mining, more than double the rate of HIV infections. In addition, tourism may increase infection rates. Tourism investments are beneficial, but the more tourists visit a country, the higher the rate of new infection”.

Well, he did not quote the aspect of the report which blamed tourism investment as a contributing factor to HIV increase infection rates. Again, he used the word ‘may’; therefore, it is presumed not to be a statement of fact. There is, however, no doubt that when some tourists visit a country, they probably may engage in sexual activities. This is why the UNWHO has a report on the effect of sex tourism, and now, sex child tourism. However, it’s also a fact that not all tourists do engage in sex tourism. Again, not all travellers are considered tourists or visitors. We don’t classify all travellers to have contributed to tourism statistics. It therefore means that there may be foreigners who travel to Ghana and yet, do not fall into the category of tourist and will not engage in any kind of tourism activity. Travellers, such refugees, nomads, diplomats, border post workers, security agents, etc., are travellers alright but are not classified to have been engaged into tourism, and therefore, may not fall under the category of tourists. Someone travelling for work is not considered a tourist. A tourist is simply defined as a person who travels to a destination and spends at least a day. A person seizes to be a tourist after spending more than 12 months at the destination. Such a person may be classified as an immigrant after spending a year.

It could be very confusing for a layman to classify people who travel to Ghana as tourists when in actual fact they may be here for work, such as illegal mining or any other kind of job. Again, when tourists travel to a destination, they have reasons for doing so. For example, health reasons, sport reasons, culture or religious reasons, business i.e., attending a conference or meeting or exhibition, visiting friends or relatives, etc. Those who fall under the afore-mentioned categories visit tourist attractions and contribute to tourist statistics. They make use of one form of accommodation, they visit entertainment centres, they eat in restaurants, engage in shopping of souvenirs, etc.

Another reason why tourism cannot be blame for HIV infection rate going up is because there is no relationship between countries that have high rate of tourist arrivals yearly and those countries recording high HIV infections rate.

A look at the list that follows show the countries with the highest HIV infection rates in the world. This was published by the World Population Review.

  1. Eswatini 2. Lesotho 3. Botswana 4. South Africa 5. Zimbabwe 6. Namibia 7. Mozambique 8. Zambia 9. Malawi 10. Equatorial Guinea 12. Uganda 13. Tanzania 14. Kenya 15. Republic of the Congo 14. Cameroon 17. Gabon 18. Guinea-Bissau 19. Central African Republic 20. Rwanda 21. South Sudan 22. Ivory Coast 23. Togo 24. Haiti 25. Angola 26. Gambia 27. Ghana 28. Mauritius 29. Sierra Leone 30. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 31. Guinea 32. Jamaica 33. Nigeria 34. Guyana 35. Russia 36. Bahamas.

This list shows that a high number of countries with high HIV infection rate are in Africa. Africa receives just about 5 percent of all international arrival per UNWO data. If the high influx of tourists in a country were a contributing factor, then countries like France, USA, China, Germany, UK and Spain which receive the highest number of tourists would have been up in the list. This is clear evidence that clearly that is not the case.

Here are the 10 countries with the most tourism:

  1. France– 89.4M
  2. Spain– 83.7M
  3. United States– 79.3M
  4. China– 65.7M
  5. Italy– 64.5M
  6. Turkey– 51.2M
  7. Mexico– 45M
  8. Thailand– 39.8M
  9. Germany– 39.6M
  10. United Kingdom– 39.4M


Source: World population review


Again, when it comes to sex tourism, many destinations that facilitate the growth of this type of tourism by legalising prostitution are nowhere near the country with high infection cases. The list of some of these countries is as follows for your own perusal:

  1. Hungary

Hungary’s capital Budapest is the hottest sex tourism destination as prostitution is legal there.

  1. The Caribbean

The Caribbean is a place on earth where female sex tourism is wildly popular. Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica and Barbados are the top sex tourism countries.

  1. Japan

In Kabukicho –Tokyo, girls are dressed as nurses, secretaries, maids etc. Paid companionship are acquired by going to the hostess club.

  1. Hong Kong is the marketplace for sex. At its bars and restaurants, you will find them full of prostitutes for a wild nightlife as prostitution is legal.
  2. Belgium

Prostitution in Belgium is also legal – shocking, right? Villa Tinto in Antwerp is one of the cleanest and safest red-light areas in Belgium.

  1. Brazil

Brazil is very well known for football, but also famous for its exotic-looking beauties. As prostitution is legal in Brazil, you can visit Brazil’s red-light area in Rio De Janeiro.

  1. Malaysia

If you want to visit Malaysia, do spend time in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh – the hub for sex tourism.

  1. Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina is famous for ‘transitory hotels’, a place where couples can book private room for sex tourism.

  1. Singapore

The great part of Singapore is that it has its official red-light district known as Geylang. There are more red-light areas in Singapore, such as Orchard Towers, Petain Road Desker and Rowell Road.

  1. Ukraine

Extreme sex tourism in Ukraine can be found in Kiev and Odessa.

  1. France

France has so many X-rated stuff to offer. Cologne is where you can visit Pascha, the first-ever high-rise brothel in Europe.

  1. Germany

Germany is known as Europe’s biggest brothels as prostitution is legal in this country.

  1. Greece

Athens, its capital, is the favourite hotspot as prostitution is technically legal. Brothels can be found in certain areas of the city like Metaxourgeio and Filis St.

  1. Indonesia

Bali is the go-to place in Indonesia for strip clubs, massage parlours, and a top-class destination for parties and nightlife. There are a lot of massage parlours and karaoke bars in Kuta, Legian, Sanur and Denpasar. Bali also has a lot of pubs, clubs and beach club bars which offer fantastic food and world-class DJ.  Prostitution is a huge business in Bali.

  1. Netherlands

The red-light area in Amsterdam – capital of Netherland – has an area known as the ‘De Wallen’, famous for sex shows, strip clubs and brothels.

  1. Mexico

The most popular destinations in Mexico are Mexico City and Tijuana. The most visited brothels include Zona Norte in Tijuana and Adelitas – the largest and oldest brothel in Mexico..


  1. Philippines

Sex tourism in the Philippines is mostly common in Manila and Boracay.

  1. Thailand

Bangkok and Pattaya are popular for Go Go Bars famous for red-light districts and sex shows.

  1. Czech Republic

Prostitution is legal in the Czech Republic, which makes it a part of everyone’s bucket list.

  1. Cambodia

Street prostitution is widely popular with karaoke bars and massage parlours.

  1. Spain

Sex tourism in Spain is most common in Madrid – the capital of Spain – and Ibiza and Barcelona.


This information is clear on what happens in this high tourist generating countries, yet HIV infection rate is low. The earlier we looked at the real reasons – and no blame tourism, the better it will be for Ghana. Tourism has the potential of improving our economy. The positive aspect of tourism is what we must focus on and not the negative aspect.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd., a Destinations Management and Marketing company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected]. Visit our website at or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations.

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