Male Prostitution Along U.S.-Mexico Border May Increase HIV Risk, Needs Further Study, Experts Say
"Poverty-forced" prostitution among men living along the U.S.-Mexico border needs to be studied to determine whether it is contributing to "a new wave" of HIV infections, according to experts at last week's U.S.-Mexico HIV/AIDS Border Conference in Tucson, Ariz., the Arizona Daily Star reports. Dr. Juan Ruiz, chief of the epidemiologic studies section of the California Department of Health Services, and colleagues between 1999 to 2002 studied 374 young men living along the U.S.-Mexico border in either San Diego, Calif., or Tijuana, Mexico. Approximately 35% of the men who lived in San Diego and 20% of the men who resided in Tijuana were HIV-positive. Ruiz said that many men who are waiting to cross the border prostitute themselves, primarily to other men, to make money to survive. Juan Bazan, director of the Bi-National AIDS Advocacy Project, said that such men engage in prostitution because they feel that they have no other option for survival. He noted that many also abuse alcohol and drugs to cope. In addition, the men -- many of whom are heterosexual -- do not tell their spouses or girlfriends about their encounters and therefore put them at high risk of contracting HIV or other STDs. According to Ruiz, the same sort of "poverty-forced" prostitution may be occurring among men and women in other border communities (Duarte, Arizona Daily Star, 9/17). Attendees at the conference called for further research on the subject. Sally Stevens, research professor with the University of Arizona Southwest Institute for Research on Women, said, "I don't think we know enough about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS along the [U.S.-Mexico] border. I don't think we really understand the dynamics of traveling between the border and those who engage in high-risk behavior and then go back to their homes" (Associated Press, 9/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.