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Indeed, Filipino sailors are the favourite clients of the Brazilian prostitutes plying their trade at Maua square near the port of Rio de Janeiro.
The prostitutes split up into groups that cater to sailors of different nationalities. A majority of the sex workers seek clients from the Philippines. Sometimes that preference even translates into pregnancy and children. Early this year, M, who has been working in Maua square for three years, gave birth to a baby whose father is a Filipino sailor.
Today, her Filipino sailor is working on ships plying the oceans in other parts of the world, although she says he telephones her frequently. The preference is mutual. The women agreed that many of them refused to use condoms. Cultural resistance to condoms is aggravated by fears of not being able to perform properly, said Antonio Carlos Sousa, a doctor who has attended to sailors in the Rio de Janeiro port for 14 years. On board ships, workdays are long and rest is a scant commodity.
When sailors return home, they usually sleep for two days straight before they can begin to enjoy their time off, said Sousa. Exhaustion and inexperience lead to accidents, the main cause of medical problems among sailors, who come in with everything ranging from sprains and minor cuts to serious burns and amputations, said the doctor.
Also frequent are depression, as well as skin problems caused by poor hygiene. However, the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases STDs has significantly diminished, thanks to more widespread use of the condom, and to sexual abstinence, because ships stay in port for shorter periods of time now, sometimes for just a few hours. Perez is a married father of two who said he misses his grown children very much. His work has kept him in Brazil for seven months, and the shipping company that hired him has problems that will delay his return to the Philippines by another seven months.