NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 17, 2007

Migrant workers go to the United States with dreams of new prosperity, hoping to bring back dollars.  But some are bringing back something else as well, H.I.V. and AIDS, which they are spreading in the rural parts of Mexico least prepared to handle the epidemic, says the New York Times.

In Mexico, AIDS is still shrouded by stigma and denial.  In the United States, it is often assumed that immigrants bring diseases into the country, not take them away.  But AIDS is spreading quickly in rural Mexican states with the highest migration rates to the United States, researchers say. The greatest risk of contracting AIDS that rural Mexican women face is in having sex with their migrant husbands, a new study found, a problem that is compounded by their husbands' refusal to use condoms.

AIDS has not yet exploded in Mexico and is focused mostly among prostitutes and their clients, and drug users and gay men, experts say:

  • The AIDS rate here is still considerably lower than that in the United States, nearly half as low, according to United Nations statistics published in 2006.
  • The H.I.V. infection rate for people ages 15 to 49 in the United States is about 0.6 percent, compared with 0.3 percent in Mexico, the United Nations says.

The first AIDS cases diagnosed in Mexico in 1983 were found among migrants, researchers say.  Since then, studies have continued to show that migrants to the United States make up a significant percentage of those contracting the disease:

  • The percentage of Mexicans with H.I.V. who have lived in the United States fluctuated between 41 percent and 79 percent in the 1980s and early 1990s, studies have shown.
  • But since 1992, Mexico has not reported comprehensive figures.

Source: Marc Lacey, "Mexican Migrants Carry H.I.V. Home," New York Times, July 17, 2007.

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