1Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) is legendary for many social and cultural indulgences such as the Carnival, the limbo dance, the steel drum bands, and calypso/soca. Held annually, the carnival is responsible for the largest influx of visitors (over 39,000 in 2008) from around the world to the twin-island nation as reported by the Ministry of Tourism, in its 2004-2008 Achievement Report. Known as the greatest festival in the world, the carnival is also credited for fuelling the growth of over 93 similarly constructed festivals around the world generating in excess of $300 million dollars in additional economic activity (Joseph, 2000). There is also much controversy about the increased population growth as a result of the sexual activities prevalent during the festivities. Martin (2011), reports that the “Carnival baby” has been a long standing joke in Trinidad and Tobago for decades, and that there is a 15% increase in the number of births every November and December as a result of the amount of unprotected sex occurring during the Carnival season. This behavior, according to the author, implies an increased risk of the range of sexually transmitted infections including HIV. Many young people offer sex for sale to Carnival visitors despite warnings of the rising incidence of sex tourism and HIV/AIDS in the nation (Morris, 2011).
2Recently, a local newspaper article brought to the forefront the increase irresponsibility and unsafe sexual behavior that occurs during the Carnival season despite numerous campaigns involving the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT) together with the Population Services International/Caribbean, which launched a line of condoms called Cool Condoms expected to reduce the level of irresponsible sexual behavior during the season. According to the report, a spike in unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and STDs in the months to follow are expected (Ray, 2011). The question always remains, is there more sex during the Carnival season? This review paper examines critically the extent to which the behaviors and attitudes of the tourists and locals towards the Carnival, the major tourism cultural product of Trinidad and Tobago contributes to the HIV/AIDS epidemic plaguing the twin island nation. It is also hoped that this paper will articulate possible suggestions to contain what is increasingly leading to a myriad of social and economic challenges. Information and Data presented in this research paper are drawn from secondary sources and extensive literature review of the subject area, including governments’ data base and data sources.
3The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an English-speaking country in the West Indies and the second largest and southernmost island in the archipelago with a total square mileage of 1,980. Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the islands, with a total square mileage of 1,864 sq. mls., while Tobago, is the smaller and more serene island and covers 300 mls. Tobago, situated northeast of Trinidad is home to the oldest protected rainforest in the western Hemisphere and makes up 4% of the population. The twin-island nation was enjoined as one Crown colony in 1889 (Williams, 1963), achieved full independence from Britain in 1962, and became a Republic nation in 1976. The capital city, Port of Spain, is located on the northwestern coast of Trinidad. The population is just over 1.3 million people, and is considered the most cosmopolitan in the region because of its multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society - East Indians – 40%, Africans – 40%, mixed – 20.0%, (comprising middle- eastern, Chinese, Syrians-Lebanese, and Europeans) (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2010).
4The nation is the leading Caribbean producer of crude oil and natural gas and its economy is characterized by low levels of inflation and unemployment, along with a growing trade surplus (Hosein, 2006). Economy-wise, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the largest nations in the Caribbean and leads the area’s economies in several sectors. In recent years, the country’s living standards was elevated as a result of high fuel prices (Georgios, n.d.). The U.S. Department of State reports that the twin-island nation is the fifth largest exporter of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in the world, and the single largest supplier of LNG to the United States (U.S.), providing two-thirds of all LNG imported into the U.S. since 2002. Other industries include petrochemicals, iron/steel, and aluminum. Between 1994 -2008, the economy grew on average by 8% per annum and the energy sector, which accounts for 45% of GDP and over 70% of exports, remains the major growth pole of the economy (Sergeant, 2010). The country’s profile, in dynamism and economic activities, makes it a preferred destination for both adventure and opportunity.
Figure 1. Trinidad localization
5Tourism is considered to be the world’s largest and most rapidly expanding industry with undisputed economic, social and environmental relevance (UNWTO, 2010). It remains one of the most valuable industries for Trinidad and Tobago. Hosein (2006) reports that the government’s 2020 vision included plans to continue enhancing the country as a tourist destination emphasizing that Tobago will be positioned as the ‘leisure’ centre of the region, and Trinidad as the “conference and events” venue. To support this vision in the long run, the Tourism Development Company Limited (TDC) was formed to develop among other things, the nation’s tourism product and market its economy abroad. Other areas of responsibilities for the TDC involved improving the room stock already in use and moving towards the five star end of the resort market, positioning the nation as the meeting and convention center of the Southern Caribbean, and as the regional economy with the warmest welcome for tourists.
6Barry, Wood and Preusch (1984) write that Trinidad possesses the worst aspects of both the developed and underdeveloped worlds since crime, alienation, decadence, and consumerism of the industrial world exist alongside the economic dependence, the foreign domination, and the desperate poverty common to other underdeveloped nations. The authors further emphasized that the reason for the striking differences between Trinidad and other Islands in the Caribbean is the nation’s wealth of oil and natural gas. Pattullo (1996) reports that throughout the Caribbean, more than any other region of the world, one out of every six workers finds direct employment in tourism. As a tourist destination, when compared to neighboring Caribbean islands, Trinidad and Tobago has a potentially unique product to offer in terms of its rich cultural diversity, eco-tourism, honeymooning, and filmmaking. The two islands complement each other, Tobago offers its visitors the peace, tranquility and white sandy beaches they expect and demand, while Trinidad offers the excitement and activities of the carnival festival. It is no surprise that Trinidad and Tobago, like the rest of the region is battling with the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
7Four principal dimensions social, economic, environmental, and education have impacts on tourism in developing countries including the Caribbean. These dimensions manifest themselves in many ways and can be very influential. Prasad (1987), reports that the magnitude of these impacts on any society depends on the degree of dependency upon tourism and its economic plight. Two schools of thought are expressed according to Prasad, the first maintains the view that tourism provides a vehicle for injecting enthusiasm and financial support into cultural activities, and the second expresses the view that, that tourism is responsible for cultural pollution since tourists are more concerned with the exotic rather than the authentic. Tourism is also responsible for the transmission of diseases in host communities since close contact with host local communities and their customs seems to be one of the main attractions of developing countries (Bauer, 1999). Frantz Fanon, in his 1963 account of the effects of tourism on developing nations warned that the haste of the national bourgeoisies to organize centers of rest and relaxation and pleasure resorts to satisfy the wishes of the Western middle-class in the name of tourism would eventually transform certain elements of the ex-native middle-class into organizers of parties. Fanon further warned that if proof was needed of the eventual transformation of some of these elements then the ill fate of Latin America must be used as an example with the casinos of Havana and of Mexico, the beaches of Rio, the little Brazilian and Mexican girls, the half-breed thirteen year-olds, the ports of Acapulco and Copacabana – all these are the stigma of this depravation of the national middle-class (Green, 2007; Phillips, 2007; Kempadoo, 1999; Miller, 1991; Fanon, 1963; Crick, 1989; to name a few). There is therefore no question that the interactiveness with the host locals has huge, if sometimes, not immediately noticeable or quantifiable impact on the social, cultural, educational and economic life of the country. Could there be found a utilitarian value to this engagement or interaction?
8Carnival is an annual pre-Lenten festival celebrated on many islands across the Caribbean including Trinidad and Tobago. Considered the most significant festival in Trinidad and Tobago, annual visitor arrivals to this country within the fourteen days leading up to the Carnival season, as reported by the Ministry of Tourism in 2009, was 36,643. Reports indicate that over the past two centuries, the Carnival festival has evolved from an elegant, exclusive event to an all-inclusive national festival (Nalis, 2004). The Carnival festival in Trinidad and Tobago has been credited for the spawn of many similarly constructed festivals around the world (Joseph, 2000), and has also been referred to as “a defining event in the culture of Trinidad and Tobago (Martin, 1998). Coomansingh (2006), reports that the Carnival forms the most realistic backdrop of Trinidad’s culture.
9According to critics, the word Carnival is associated with two origins: the first, comes from those who believe that the word Carnival is traced to the Latin word carne vale, meaning “farewell to the flesh or farewell to the meat”; and secondly, from those who believe it is traced to the Italian word carnevale or carnelevare, meaning “to remove meat” (Liverpool, 1988; Laurence, 1967). It must be noted, that the idea that the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival originated in Europe came from the fact that the festivities associated with the carnival in many ways still resemble the Trinidad Carnival held in Europe today. However, Liverpool purports that all evidence supports the views that: (1) the Trinidad Carnival was originated with the enslaved Africans of the sugar plantations on the island; (2) the majority of customs associated with the festivities are African in form and function; (3) the whites' Mardi Gras also has African roots with Egypt being the ultimate source; and (4) the Carnival festival, as developed and practiced in Trinidad over the years, is to a large extent in "remembrance of African life". As a group, they are also credited with revolutionizing the celebrations.
10Introduced to Trinidad as early as 1783, and reportedly influenced by the French, Spanish, English and Africans, the Carnival celebrations for many of these groups begun from Christmas until Ash Wednesday, with the actual celebratory days culminating three days just before the Lenten season (Ash Wednesday) started. During the nineteenth century, carnival activities included making house-to-house visits en masque, street dancing, and alcohol drinking. At that time, free blacks were excluded from participating in the festivities but were allowed to mask. On the other hand, black slaves were completely ostracized from the festivities until after Emancipation in 1833 (Campbell, 1988; Liverpool, 1988). The Africans who participated in I9th-century Trinidad Carnival was called jamettes, by the French, meaning "below the diameter of respectability or the underworld" (Liverpool, 1988).
11Another major influencing group of the carnival was the Spanish settlers, who came to Trinidad as conquerors and proprietors with their enslaved Africans between 1814 and 1817. During the celebrations, the Spaniards, similar to the French revelers, went from house-to-house visiting and serenading loved ones and friends. In Spain, the carnival festivities, which was also held on the last three days before Ash Wednesday was noted for “gambling, bullfights, weddings, masquerade parties, and dances”. In addition, not only did they consumed great quantities of rum and serenaded women during the festivities, but they were also responsible for the law that Carnival in Trinidad during the period of enslavement, was to be celebrated on the three days prior to Ash Wednesday (Liverpool, 1988).
12Much has been written on traditional Carnival and the activities associated with the celebrations by various groups that settled on the Island. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on whom one talks to, many of these activities are still evident in the celebrations today. For example, during the carnival celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago, two specific behaviors continue to be of concern, they are: (1) the high levels of alcohol consumption during the festivities and, (2) the erotic dancing and wining expressed by revelers. Reports indicate that there is a direct association between high levels of alcohol consumption and high risks for sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS (World Health Organization [WHO], 2011; Kalichman et al., 2007). In addition, alcohol consumption is linked to many harmful consequences not just for individual drinkers but also for the immediate environment and society as a whole. A survey conducted in 1995, revealed that 10.5% of males in Trinidad drank at least 21 units of alcohol per week (WHO, 2004). Another negative social consequence of high levels of alcohol consumption, is the practice of unsafe sex which, according to reports, many people particularly young people, revealed that they engaged in sexual activities once they were drunk because of their inability to think responsibly, therefore, the thought of abstinence and the use of condoms are usually the furthest things from their minds (Ray, 2011).
13An article featured in a local newspaper headlined “Is there More Sex during Carnival?”, which suggested that there is, and the evidence to support the phenomenon is provided in reports by the Central Statistical Office, which shows that there is a 15% increase in the number of births occurring every November and December. This timeline indicates a nine month lapse time from the carnival season, which usually occurs either during the month of February or March to the birth period indicated. The author further purports that the increase in births during this period is an indication that more unprotected sex is occurring, which is also attributed to the increased risk in the range of sexually transmitted infections including HIV (Martin, 2011). To encourage safe sexual behaviors, the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT), in conjunction with Population Services International/Caribbean, launched a line of condoms called “Cool Condoms” during the 2011 carnival celebration (Ray, 2011). Kalichman et al. (2007), in studying the association between alcohol use and sexual risks for HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, posits that among the most prevalent behaviors associated with sexual risks for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections is the use of alcohol. The authors also purport that sexual risks are elevated by alcohol consumption through multiple channels including risk-taking personality characteristics, drinking environments, expectations regarding the effects of alcohol on risk-taking, and the psychogenic effects of alcohol on decision making.
14The second major concern of the celebrations is the dancing or wining. Wining, a term used to describe sensuous pelvic gyrations of the hips and waist, is considered to be suggestive and sexually stimulating not only to the revelers but also to on-lookers (Maharajh & Konings, 2007; Miller, 1991). It is also considered expressions of enjoyment, happiness and freedom (Grant, n.d.). Similarly, Miller (1991) reports that wining between men and women during carnival, is clearly a sexual expression that encourages rape. Maharajh and Konings (2007), writes that the Carnival is viewed as a “time to free up, break away and get on bad”. It is also viewed as a time where people indulge in excessive alcohol consumption, promiscuous activities, and other behaviors considered immoral and inexcusable. For these reasons, Trinidadians as a group, is described as having a “carnival mentality”, which refers to a year-round non-stop party mentality. The authors further reports that in Trinidad, sex is seen as a comparative performance for both men and women, and activities such as wining, is viewed as either a form of “virtual sex” or as an expression of sexuality. Green (2007) writes that “Carnival is nothing more than an orgy of sexuality and hedonism appealing to the fetishistic fantasies of the potential tourist”. This contextual, if tantalizing environment for the “carnival spirit” for the locals have an equal, if not more, tantalizing allure for the tourists. The prevailing environment of social, and cultural permissiveness and intermingling, allows for the indulgent tourist to be part of the rascality and the attendant exposure.
15The HIV/AIDS epidemic is affecting all levels of society in many nations globally including Caribbean countries. In 2004, at a Caribbean Trade Union strategic planning summit on HIV/AIDS in the workplace, held in Trinidad and Tobago, Professor Karl Theodore warned that the people of the Caribbean could be annihilated by the HIV/AIDS virus. According to Theodore, some behavioral patterns prevalent in the region such as, men having multiple partners could rapidly increase the number of people infected in the area (Beharry, 2004). Between 2006 and 2009, the HIV prevalence rate in Trinidad and Tobago increased from 1.2% to 1.5% respectively (Allaham, 2010). Reports show that the incidence rate of HIV/AIDS in Trinidad and Tobago is ranked 17th globally, 5th among the English speaking Caribbean countries, and 1st among the larger Caribbean countries (Davey & Merzthal, 2004).
16In the Caribbean, the first reports of the HIV/AIDS cases were reported in 1981 in Haiti. By 1982, cases were being reported in Jamaica and Bermuda and by 1987 all Caribbean countries had reported at least one case. By 1983, Trinidad reported its first HIV/AIDS case. It must be noted, however, that the reported cases were made official only on these dates (years after the fact), which underlies the obvious underestimation of the actual exposures. This is because the cultural environment, lacking in openness and mired in embarrassment and shame associated with the disease, normally dissuaded full disclosure. Factors driving the epidemic in the Caribbean since 1982 include, multiple partnerships, early sexual debut, men having sex with men, high levels of transactional sex, female sex workers, prisoners, and the inadequate use of condoms, the sum total of which are blamed for the rapid increase of the epidemic. New HIV positive cases reported by the end of 2009, was 20,255, with the number of AIDS cases and AIDS related deaths showing an increase of 6,208 and 3,845 respectively. The 3,845 AIDS related deaths show a dramatic increase when compared to data provided for 2007 and 2008 of 114 and 81 respectively (UNAIDS, 2010).
17Numerous1 studies show that the Caribbean region has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS cases outside of sub-Saharan Africa: (UNAIDS 2010; Padilla, et al., 2010; Orisatoki, et al., 2009; Inciardi et al., 2005; Hawkins, 2003). Very disturbing in the reports, is that Trinidad and Tobago is amongst the worst exposed in the Caribbean outside of the Dominican Republic and Haiti (Inciadi, et al, 2005; Davey & Merzthal, 2004). Health experts blame tourism and promiscuity for the fast rising incidence of the epidemic on the Island of Tobago, which was established as an alternative to traditional tourist destinations in the Caribbean (Gibbings, 1997). In a 2004 article printed in the local newspaper (The Trinidad Express), the Minister of Planning and Development, stated “that the HIV/AIDS pandemic had become a major threat and if the disease was not addressed, the workforce could be reduced by about 20 percent by the following year” (Lord, 2004). The increase in the HIV/AIDS epidemic globally is being reported by many researchers as directly linked to the tourism industry (Padilla et al., 2010; Ward & Plourde, 2006; Ansart et al., 2009; Herold et al., 2001; etc.).
18Gibbings reports that Trinidad and Tobago is rapidly realizing that sex, the 4th dimension of the tourism industry that sells sun, sea, and sand bears a terribly high price tag so much so, that in recent years, disturbing reports show a darker side as the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to plague this nation. Anthony and Carr (1975) wrote that Trinidad has plenty to keep it busy without bothering too much about tourism (oil, sugar, pitch, and light industries) however, Tobago has little beyond its amazing beauty. Reports show that the number of reported HIV/AIDS cases in the nation has reached unprecedented levels in excess of 25,000 and continues to increase. A recent report in one of the local newspapers reported that at least four new cases of HIV infections are being reported daily and at least 25,000 persons in Trinidad and Tobago are currently living with the disease caused by the virus (La Rose, 2011).
19Sun, sand, sea, and sex, the image pleasure seeking travelers have of Caribbean destinations is as tantalizing as it is alluring. As a result, a rather intimate and interactive relationship between tourists and their local hosts have evolved, culminating in a rather romantic fascination of tourists toward locals in many of these Caribbean destinations. The notion that tourists engender erotic fantasies of their hosts has generated interests since the 18th century with the early pilgrimages (Littlewood, 2001). In studying elements of the Grand Tour and its relations to modern tourism, Littlewood argues that sex is both vital to the tourism industry and the convenient line between sex tourism and mainstream tourism does more to obscure reality than define it. Sex tourism, particularly in the Caribbean over the past decade or two has generated tremendous attention. Several studies exist in the literature on the topic (Johnson, 2009, Taylor, 2001, Herald et al, 2001, Kempadoo, 1999, Forsythe et al, 1998, Patullo, 1996) to name a few. Tourists’ image of the Caribbean is not imaginary, though they have been described by Fussell as “fantasists”, but the result of short-term, not properly developed marketing strategies. Barry, Wood, and Preusch (1984) show several marketing strategies used to market the Caribbean. For example: images of young black men wearing beach attendant T-shirts practicing smiles tending to sun-burning tourists while black-tied waiters serve piña coladas and coconut crushes in the evening in Barbados; the Caribbean travel industry being labeled as “Sun-lust tourism”; Eastern Airlines advertising Caribbean vacations with billboards showing half-clad women discarding their clothes with the words, “Take off” for the Caribbean; and, colorful brochures of bikini-clad women being served rum-punch by black waiters in colorful costumes. The authors further contend that another attraction of this sun-lust tourism is the availability of local women for male tourists explicitly as prostitutes or in the roles of hospitality girls, massage and bath attendants, strip-tease performers, and hostesses.
20Patullo (1996) posits that fantasies of locals in Caribbean destinations are reinforced by several factors: ordinary people transported to luxury, to live “like royalty”, brochures implying that hedonism was the key quality of these unfamiliar environments where they are not known, and the image of an alluring paradise that links the Caribbean to sex and romance. Putting the icing on the cake, the success of the book and movie “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” by Terry McMillan, further embellished the image the tourists have of the Caribbean and fuelled travel to the region (Jamaica) by single women anticipating similar outcome. Ansart et al., (2009), in a recent study, purport that travel removes many of the social taboo restrictions of sexual behaviors, which may account for the high number of short-term travelers to the tropics that engage in casual sexual behaviors abroad as between 5 – 51 percent. Littlewood (2001) writes that “hot climates invite a relaxation in dress, and the stubborn northern assumption has always been that shedding clothes goes hand in hand with shedding morals”.
21The high levels of alcohol consumption and wining during the Carnival celebrations in Trinidad is often times described as a form of “freeing up oneself”. A term used very frequently in the region that means to “let one’s hair down, forget about your problems and just have a good time”. The authors argue that this attitude of “I have earned this freedom” is the impetus for the irresponsible attitudes and behaviors. Discussed earlier in this paper, both locals and visitors to the Carnival celebrations, consume voluminous amount of alcohol exacerbating the problem of irresponsible unprotected sexual behaviors, which is proving to be the cause of the increase in the HIV/AIDS in the nation. This is not to say that these attitudes and behaviors are not prevalent outside of the Carnival celebrations, because they are. However, what is unique about the Carnival celebrations is the confirmation of the increased birth rate occurring nine months after the celebrations as reported by the Central Statistical Office (CSO), which sheds light on the amount of irresponsible unprotected sex individuals engage in at this time. Though much attention has been given to the sex tourism industry overall in the region and its contribution to the increase of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, outside of newspaper articles, there is a paucity of studies directly relating the carnival celebrations to this epidemic. In attempts to gather data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Port-of-Spain, the authors were told that data collected are not normally broken down by events. Therefore, the only data directly relating the irresponsible sexual activities associated with the carnival celebrations and the possible increase in the HIV/AIDS epidemic is the data provided by the CSO. This data infers that individuals are engaging in unprotected sexual activities during the celebrations.
22Many agree that the constant thread that links travel and sex is the economic power of the tourist (Littlewood, 2001; Barry et al., 1984; Kempadoo, 1999; Pattullo, 1996). Littlewood, in his account of the sexual pilgrims, writes that travelling for sex was an accepted part of the holiday carnival for young women. Similarly, Ward and Plourde (2006) also writes that travel in itself appears to be sufficiently intoxicating to encourage casual sex experiences for both men and women, and that there is considerable evidence suggesting that alcohol and drugs contribute to these experiences. A profile of the traveler likely to have casual sex while on vacation is described as young men and women, women between 35 and 53 years old, recently divorced groups, and elderly travelers to exotic destinations. More needs to be done in the area of education that would help in magnifying the problem of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Trinidad and Tobago, not just during the Carnival celebrations but year round. One challenge is that individuals in the region today still believe that the disease is owned by Gay and Bi-Sexual individuals. There is no one perfect approach to dealing with the issue at hand however, it is clear that as long as international tourism is in demand, the challenges for governments in the Caribbean would continue. To add to existing problems, reports indicate that a new trend of travelers include single women, specifically young women, travelling for reasons related to pleasure or business. A growing trend that requires special attention since it is reported that these young women have sexual expectations with locals in their destinations (Bauer, 2009 ; Ragsdale, 2006).
23It is apparent therefore that tourism, in all its economic, social and cultural attributions and related benefits, has created an ancillary, if hugely prohibitive, healthcare dilemma for the governments of the Caribbean. The challenge for the governments is to find a balance that accommodates the contributions of the tourists and the well being of the local people. This can be achieved by evolving a policy that encourages, if not mandate, tourist’s industry workers who come in direct contact with tourists to go through a health certification process, as well as enlightenment orientation, geared primarily at educating them on the real and present, and not speculative implications and dangers of uncautionary and wayward sexual interactions. In addition, the tourists should be encouraged to go through a health evaluation process in their home countries and carry with them as they travel, international “health cards”, similar to the “Travel Cards” carried in the early days of international travels to certify for inoculations for “Yellow Fewer”, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis, etc. In addition, a generous and well coordinated condom service could be initiated at the various carnivals by the government.