By: Vashti Kelly, Program Manager
HIV/AIDS is among the many health dangers farmworkers face. Contributing factors to this are isolation and loneliness, limited access to healthcare (physical and mental), cultural barriers, and exposure to numerous health partners. In order to cope with the abuse, the social segregation, and the multitude of issues that farmworkers face; people tend to find comfort in sex and are more likely to repeat said risky sexual behaviors.
The majority of migrant farmworkers are physically isolated in remote areas nowhere near cities or towns. They are completely surrounded by the farms on which they work; thus, farmworkers are wholly dependent upon crew leaders for transportation to purchase the necessities. In some cases, crew leaders provide food and beverage but at an expense, deducting the cost from their pay. And, depending on the situation alcohol is the only drink being provided to workers. It is this physical and social isolation that in turn create the perfect instance of dependency on crew leaders.
Understanding that many migrant farmworkers travel long distances for work and are away from their families for prolonged periods, it is no wonder that depression, alcohol, drugs, and prostitution are rampant in many labor camps. In all male camps these behaviors become a commodity off which crew leaders are able to turn a profit. It is exploitation that breeds such circumstances putting farmworkers at a disadvantage for seeking necessary medical assistance, be it mental or physical; or being self-sufficient and performing daily tasks, no matter how menial, for themselves.
Future interventions should focus on not just treatment of farmworkers but education as well. Assimilation is stressful and often times results in harmful and risky behaviors as coping mechanisms, such as unprotected sex with multiple partners and substance abuse. Education of all involved; growers, crew leaders, and farmworkers; on responsibilities and rights, as well as an adequate amount of third party investigators to ensure proper treatment are essential. However, there needs to be a change in mindset not only about how farmworkers are viewed by their employers, but furthermore by society.