Scientists from California, Mexico to Study AIDS Among Migrant Workers
February 6, 2003
Government officials from Mexico and California announced Wednesday in San Francisco an ambitious study to determine how HIV is spread among migrant workers and their families with the goal of preventing AIDS from reaching epidemic proportions in Mexico. Beginning in April, the project will track HIV rates in the migrant worker population, representing the first time the Mexican government has worked with a US state to tackle the issue, said Dr. George F. Lemp, director of California's Universitywide AIDS Research Program. The study will also follow infection rates for other STDs and tuberculosis.Adapted from:
Research will focus on seasonal farm workers, day laborers and urban service workers in Fresno and San Diego counties, and the same groups and their relatives in the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Michoacan. The scientists expect to spend three years doing field interviews, collecting blood and urine samples, and developing statistical models intended for program recommendations.
Mexico's HIV prevention center research director, Dr. Carlos Magis Rodriguez, said the country's HIV rate of 0.3 percent and its estimated 60,000 AIDS cases -- five to six times lower than comparable US figures -- mean "we are in a position where people that are from Mexico who go to the states have more probability of getting infected with HIV than they would if they stayed in Mexico and engaged in the same behavior." Migrant workers, Rodriguez said, may be more likely to participate in high-risk activities "because a migrant loses all the social support system -- friends, relatives and language."
Several smaller US-based studies to determine HIV rates among migrant workers and their families have varied considerably. One study found that 13 percent of 198 migrant farmers in South Carolina were HIV-positive. A North Carolina study revealed that 3 percent of patients at a rural health clinic who worked as seasonal laborers were HIV-positive. Lemp predicted, however, that when the joint study is completed, scientists may find the infection rate among Mexican immigrants to be much higher than previously thought, and they may "identify a higher incidence of high-risk behavior than we have talked about before."
02.05.03; Lisa Leff