California County Officials Focus on HIV/AIDS Prevention Among Migrant Workers
San Joaquin County, Calif., health outreach workers "face a range of obstacles in their work to prevent" HIV/AIDS among migrant workers, including challenges in encouraging workers to be tested, the Stockton Record reports. California has the largest population of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., according to the Record.
Because AIDS is about twice as prevalent in the U.S. as in Mexico, migrant workers "are more likely to be exposed to the disease than if they had remained in their home country," the Record reports. A lack of access to health care, low levels of education and a hesitance to discuss sexually transmitted infections also make Mexican migrants more susceptible to contracting HIV/AIDS, and many migrants are reluctant to undergo testing. In addition, migrants are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior during their time in the U.S. than in Mexico. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes found that Mexican immigrants had more sexual partners in the U.S. than those who remained in their home nation and were more likely to have had intercourse with a sex worker. Mexican and U.S. health officials also have linked migrants' travel to the U.S. to the spread of HIV/AIDS in Mexico.
San Joaquin County health outreach worker Richard Gonzales said it is difficult to encourage workers to consent to an HIV test, adding, "We can't force anyone." San Joaquin AIDS Foundation outreach workers routinely visit migrant barracks in the county to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and encourage testing with incentive offers, such as gift certificates for meals. Mexico's Vete Sano, Regresa Sano (Go Healthy, Return Healthy) program for immigrants and the California-Mexico AIDS Initiative also seek to educate migrant workers on the issue (Torres, Stockton Record, 3/29).