By: Vashti Kelly, Program Manager
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) have a presence of higher rates among certain vulnerable populations because they share similar social and behavioral factors that lead to disease transmission. Unsafe sexual practices among agricultural workers due to a high prevalence of sexual risk behaviors, particularly among males; migration of these men, unaccompanied by their primary sex partner, only exacerbates risky sexual behaviors.
Although, the data on farmworkers and STDs is limited at best what does exist is based upon information extracted from sample groups or studies focused on the Hispanic/Latino population at large; which works since seventy-six percent of all farmworkers identify as Hispanic/Latino.
- Hispanics/Latinos represented about 17% of the US population, but accounted for an estimated 23% (10,201) of HIV diagnoses.
- Latino men accounted for 79% of all new HIV infections among Latinos
- Latina women accounted for 21% of all new HIV infections among Latinos
- Younger Latinos (aged 20-24) have rates Chlamydia and Gonorrhea infection (per 100,000 pop.) that are 1.5 to 2.5 times higher than those for whites
Many of the same risky behaviors seen among other populations as contributing to the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs): low rates of condom usage; higher rates of use of sex workers; multiple partners; sharing of drug paraphernalia; and higher rates of substance abuse. However, the reasons for participating in said behaviors could be contributed to the uncertainty, stress, lack of social support, and lack of control over the migrant lifestyle. The migrant lifestyle of farm workers creates barriers to healthcare access such as transportation, cultural, language, and legal. These barriers may play a role in the prevention of diagnosis and treatment of HIV and STIs, and promote their dissemination.
Migrant farm workers are usually educated on a variety of health issues through Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Programs, yet personal hygiene, HIV and STIs, substance use, and diabetes are often forgotten. Generally, migrant farm workers have poor or misguided knowledge about safer sex practices or they may not be culturally accepted.
For this reason, when designing or implementing training it is important to remember that is should be delivered in a culturally sensitive manner and in a language that workers understand. It doesn’t seem logical to have training and education available but not being put to use because the instructor, location, and setting where after thoughts rather than key elements of the design. These reasons are why community health worker model of promotores/as is extremely useful in under-served and uninsured populations; a culturally and linguistically appropriate based training format given by peer leaders.