Washington Post Examines HIV Epidemic in Tijuana, Mexico
The Washington Post on Friday examined the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the border town of Tijuana, Mexico, where HIV prevalence is about three times that of the national average, with about one in 125 adults living with HIV. Mexico has one of the lowest HIV prevalences in the Americas, and according to UNAIDS, the percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS in Mexico is about half that of the U.S. and one-third that of El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama, the Post reports.
According to a survey by researchers at the University of California's Division of International Health and Cross-Cultural Medicine, 64% of 116 HIV-positive Tijuana residents came into the U.S. at least once monthly. About half of men who have sex with men living in Tijuana and 75% of MSM living in San Diego reported having sex partners across the border, the survey found. In addition, of 1,000 commercial sex workers interviewed in Tijuana, 69% reported having U.S. clients who crossed the border for sex. Steffanie Strathdee, a HIV/AIDS researcher at IHCCM, said HIV is the "uninvited hitchhiker."
According to the Post, HIV advocacy groups have implemented needle-exchange programs and condom distribution campaigns in Tijuana to curb the spread of HIV. The government has "quietly" supported such programs, the Post reports. Although the country is traditionally conservative, health leaders persuaded the government to support such programs and discuss issues such as condom use in a scientific, rather than moral, context. "Before, it was taboo to even talk openly about condoms," Jorge Saavedra -- director of Censida, the National Center for the Control of HIV/AIDS in Mexico -- said, adding, "Groups still oppose condom use, but at least we can mention the word." According to Saavedra, needle-exchange programs also are sound public health strategies. "We are not giving needles to people who are not drug users," he said, adding, "We're giving needles to people who are already using those drugs. This is a way to avoid HIV infections." The article also profiles Angel Cabrera, who conducts HIV/AIDS outreach in Tijuana (Connolly, Washington Post, 8/1). The article was supported by a Kaiser Family Foundation mini reporting fellowship.