Migrants Traveling to Their Country of Origin: A Bridge Population for HIV Transmission?

Migrants who have unprotected heterosexual contact in both the Netherlands and their homeland could serve as a bridge population for HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) transmission, noted the authors, who studied the determinants for such a population in two large migrant communities.

From 2003 to 2005, the researchers recruited 1,938 study subjects of Surinamese and Antillean origin from social venues in two large cities. Participants were interviewed, and they underwent oral testing for HIV antibodies. Multivariate multinomial logistic regression was used to examine characteristics of groups with four risk levels -- no, low, moderate, high -- for cross-border transmission.

Of the 1,938 participants, 60 percent (1,159) had traveled from the Netherlands to their homeland in the past five years. Ninety-four percent of the travelers (1,092) reported partnerships and condom use in both nations. Of these, 9.2 percent reported unprotected sex with partners in both locations. Subjects in this high-risk or bridge population were more likely to be male, frequent travelers, and older, compared to persons who had no sex or sexual contact in one country only in the preceding five years.

"Older male travelers of Surinamese and Antillean origin are at high risk for cross-border heterosexual transmission of HIV/STIs," the authors concluded. "They should be targeted by prevention programs, which are focused on sexual health education and HIV/STI testing, to raise their risk awareness and prevent transmission."