Study Shows Mexican Migrants Have High Rates of HIV

Laura Wides, AP, June 13

LOS ANGELES—Mexican migrants are infected with HIV at a higher rate than the general population in California and Mexico, according to two studies released Monday.

The findings marked a significant change from past research that found migrants engaged in high risk behavior but were unlikely to contract the disease.

A study of Mexican migrants in California found that 0.6 percent were infected with HIV. That compares to numbers released Monday by the CDC, which put the prevalence rate as of 2003 at around 0.4 percent in the general U.S. population.

A separate study of migrants in their home states in Mexico found the rate of infection was even higher, at 1.1 percent, compared to 0.3 percent among the general Mexican population.

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The California study surveyed a random sample of 791 adult migrants in Fresno and San Diego counties, where they frequently seek construction work and jobs picking tomatoes, strawberries and other produce.

Five people tested HIV positive. All but one acknowledged having sex with other men. The study, which is ongoing, also found high rates of the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia.

The Mexican study did not seek to survey the same individuals but looked instead at migrants who had returned to rural communities in five Mexican states. The study included roughly 1,500 adult migrants from the Federal District of Mexico, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Michoacan and Zacatecas. The study also sampled nonmigrants in the communities but those results have yet to be released.

Lemp said he believes migrants acquire HIV in California, but the infection may spread faster in Mexico due to limited health care and cultural taboos against discussion of sexually transmitted diseases. He also stressed male migrants who have sex with men may not consider themselves gay and may have wives or girlfriends back home.

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