Road Development Brings AIDS to Mayan Population in Guatemala
"HIV would not be in San Lucas [Guatemala] had it not traveled by the roads," Dr. Elaine Bearer, associate professor at Brown University, writes in an opinion piece in Sunday's Providence Journal. As the director of Brown University's Medical Student Clerkship in Guatemala, Bearer has practiced medicine in the highlands of the Central American country, where AIDS is rapidly spreading among the indigenous Mayan population, for eight years. The spread of the virus is facilitated by the Pan American Highway and the network of roads that is springing up in the once remote region. According to Bearer, the new transportation network has drastically altered the traditional way of life. Improved transportation has changed the agricultural process and where once peasants were tied to the land in a virtual "slave labor" system, plantations now hire seasonal migrant workers. Men must travel to find work, dividing families in the process. Bearer writes that "[a]s in Africa, HIV ... may travel along the highway with truckers, itinerant workers and the penniless women who make their living through prostitution, which is legal in Guatemala." Long held cultural and religious views complicate efforts by Rhode Island physicians working with BearerThis is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.