California and Mexico: HIV Infection Cases Surging Among Latinos; Gays in Border Towns Most at Risk
March 18, 2002
Health officials in California and Mexico have detected "alarming" increases in HIV infections among gay and bisexual Latino men moving across the border. New field surveys of Latino men in Tijuana and San Diego show that rates of infection are as much as four times higher than in other California cities, according to George F. Lemp, director of the University of California's AIDS Research Program.
More than 35 percent of young gay and bisexual Latino men are infected with HIV in San Diego, while in Tijuana the infection rate is nearly 19 percent, according to Dr. Juan D. Ruiz of the California Health Department's AIDS office. Previous studies have found infection rates of about 8 to 9 percent among comparable populations in cities such as San Francisco, Sacramento, Long Beach and Riverside, Lemp said. The new study involved nearly 400 male volunteers recruited in San Diego bars and dance clubs, and in a Tijuana park known for cruising and prostitution. Researchers were members of the Bi-national AIDS Advocacy Project, known as PROCABI in Spanish.
"Those numbers are alarming and shocking, and they come as a real surprise," Lemp said. Lemp and a delegation of state experts on the epidemic have just returned from Mexico City, where they met with Mexican health officials in a collaborative effort to pin down the nature and causes of the rise in infection rates and to increase prevention and treatment services in border communities. Two cities in Mexico and two California counties are targeted for new research into AIDS and other STDs and their prevention and treatment resources.
In Tijuana, 56 percent of the men had received information on preventing HIV, compared to 77 percent in San Diego. In Tijuana, 46 percent of the men had tested for HIV, versus 63 percent in San Diego. Tijuana men were more likely to report that they had engaged in risky sex with women and also to have engaged in unprotected sex while high on drugs. In San Diego, the men surveyed were more likely to engage in risky sex only with other men. Men in both cities reported that their sex with both men and women often occurred on opposite sides of the border, the survey showed.
San Francisco Chronicle
03.17.02; David Perlman
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.