By: Melanie Forti, Programs Director
Talking about sex among Latinos can be considered taboo, especially for the older Latino folks. But talking about HIV/AID is even worse because all the stigmas.
Culturally speaking, because of the inculcated “machismo” it is considered ok for a men to have multiple women sex partners at a time. But when we talk about 2 men engaging in sexual practices it is a total different story. When migrating, many male farmworkers maintain secretly sexual activities with other men to achieve either one: the need for pleasure or homosexsualism. The problem with this secrete practice is that when the married men head back home they might be infected and put at risk their primary partners.
However the sexual behavior among the migrant and seasonal farmworkers population have been changing a lot throughout the years. Farmworkers are at increased risk for HIV/AIDS in comparison to other Latino groups and the U.S. population as a whole, due to a variety of factors, including limited access to health care, poverty, constant migration, and their beliefs about sex safe practices. In addition, language barriers, low literacy rates, and the difficulties of an often isolated and highly-mobile lifestyle conspire to impede migrants’ access to HIV prevention information and services.
Data regarding the incidence of HIV/ AIDS in migrant or seasonal farmworkers is very difficult to find. Some research has identified infection rates that range from as low as 2.6 percent of farmworkers with HIV to as high as 13 percent. Frequently, these numbers have been doubted as they do not fairly encompass the farmworker population. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) indicates that it is unknown the exact rate of farmworkers with HIV. It is estimated to be as much as 10 times the national average.
On Migrant Clinicians Network research HIV/AIDS and Farmworkers in the US explains the several behavioral risk factors that migrant Latino farmworkers face, these are the following:
- Lack or Inconsistent Use of Condom
- Men Having Sex with Men
- Commercial Sex Workers
- Alcohol and Drug Abuse
In addition, Migrant Clinicians have identified other factors that put at risk the Latino farmworker community to having HIV/AIDS; this is called Structural Risk Factors, among them:
- Stigma and Homophobia
- Traditional Gender Roles among Latinos
Cultural beliefs also can affect one’s risk for HIV infection. For example, among men, machismo has positive implications for HIV prevention, such as strength and protection of the family; Hispanics and HIV /AID S family; however, proving masculinity through power and dominance can lead Hispanic men to engage in risky sexual behavior.
In 2009 the three highest methods of transmission identified included: male to male infection through sexual contact (23,846 cases), male to female infection through sexual contact (8,461 cases) and female to male infection through sexual contact (4,399 cases).
They way farmworkers and general Hispanics are being infected by HIV differs by country of birth states HRSA. For instance, Puerto Ricans are more likely than other Hispanics to contract HIV as a result of injection drug use or high-risk heterosexual contact. By contrast, sexual contact with other men is the primary cause of HIV infections among Hispanic men born in Central or South America, Cuba, Mexico, or the United States.
Although there are many HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention programs to help the farmworker community many of these workers are too afraid to pursue the needed help. Whether its religion, discrimination, or culture, they are afraid to receive help and frequently put others at risk from getting infected with HIV/AIDS.
AFOP Health & Safety Programs looks forward to create awareness of this health issue and wishes that all farmworkers can receive all the health care they need to have a safe and healthy life.