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The Invisible Ones

The Invisible Ones


For some people, they don't even exist. They're always moving from field to field, from state to state, from Mexico to the United States and back again. That's life for the estimated 1 million to 5 million migrant farmworkers in this country, and they are also at increased risk for exposure to HIV. Studies show a high rate of HIV infection among Mexican migrants within Mexico and in California. One estimates that 5% of farmworkers are living with HIV. Unprotected sex, cultural taboos about sex, poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, and needle sharing are cited as the primary factors that make this group vulnerable. As a result, many of the 47 Mexican consulates in the United States and Puerto Rico have been working'sometimes in partnership with various nonprofit organizations'to spread awareness about HIV to Mexicanos who show up at the agencies to fill out paperwork (like a passport or a consular matriculate). At other times some consulates turn into temporary testing sites, with health educators talking to people about prevention and treatment options. 'This is a very good way to target people. Many of the migrants will feel safe,' says Ruby A. Marentes of the U.S.'Mexico Border Health Association. 'They really trust the consulates.' Juan Antonio Longueira Rosales, a representative of the Mexican consulate in Washington, D.C., says that after a request from some organizations and community leaders, the consulate brought in the director of the National Center for HIV, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention to talk about how the government is handling the HIV problem in Mexico. And other nations are following Mexico's example. Countries such as El Salvador and others, Longueira Rosales says, 'want to know more about the strategies that Mexico is doing in order to help their people in the United States.'

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