U.S. News

HIV Prevention Efforts in San Joaquin County, Calif., Focus on Migrant Workers

April 1, 2008

HIV prevention efforts in San Joaquin County, Calif., are focusing on migrant workers from Mexico who are at high risk of contracting the virus, the Stockton Record reports. Health officials in Mexico and the U.S. have linked migration to the spread of HIV/AIDS in Mexico, particularly in the country's rural villages, according to the Record.

Public Health Services of San Joaquin County offers no-cost oral HIV tests to migrant workers in a van that travels throughout the county. Richard Gonzales, a community health educator for the county, said that health workers have made three trips this year to administer HIV tests to the migrant workers but added that it is often difficult to persuade them to receive tests. Gonzales recently offered food as an incentive to workers who received a test and promised a $5 gift certificate to a local market if they return to get the results. In addition, HIV educators from the San Joaquin AIDS Foundation provide migrant workers with information about HIV prevention.

There are several reasons migrant workers are at high risk of HIV, including limited access to health care and education about the virus, the Record reports. Migrant workers from Mexico are more likely to have multiple sexual partners and are more likely to have sex with commercial sex workers. Migrants are likely to engage in other risky sex practices, according to a report released last year by the Office of the Mexican Secretary of Health. In addition, migrant workers are unlikely to openly discuss HIV and other sexually transmitted infections or how to prevent them.

Health workers in the U.S. and Mexico also have developed broader programs to fight the spread of HIV among migrant workers, the Record reports. Health officials in San Joaquin County are involved in the joint California-Mexico AIDS Initiative, which supports research on migrant health and intervention efforts. Another program in Mexico -- Vete Sano, Regresa Sano, which stands for Go Healthy, Return Healthy -- seeks to educate migrant workers on the risks associated with HIV and how to prevent transmission of the virus (Torres, Stockton Record, 3/29).

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