Monday, October 02, 2006

Report from New York City: the immigrant experience and HIV/AIDS

Over the last 3 decades, the growth and diversification of New York City’s immigrant population has mirrored the growth in the HIV epidemic.

Michele Shedlin and her colleagues in a recent study examined this concurrence, locating a gap in public health research. They state:

Because the HIV pandemic undergoes continual change in its locations and affected populations, it is crucial to study HIV risk behaviors among mobile and immigrant groups within and across borders.

Seeking to examine the impact of migration on health risks and disparities, the study focuses on Hispanic, West Indian, and South Asian immigrants to New York City. A complicating factor of great consequence is that since September 11th, 2001 data on immigrants in NYC have gotten scarce as the individuals have been more reluctant to identify themselves, fearing stigma or even deportation.

The study, published in the Journal of Urban Health as part of its “HIV perspectives after 25 years”, examined the three immigrant groups in different scenarios, involving in depth interviews and assessments. The contacts were made through hospitals, social workers, health officials, and outreach workers. The researchers found that, among an array of other hardships, immigrants are more than twice as likely as citizens to have no health insurance and knew less about HIV infection and protective measures.

The articles states boldly, “the success or failure of this city’s response to its HIV epidemic…will likely revolve around the adequacy of our responses to the challenges posed by our city’s vital and growing immigrant communities.” It calls for more studies of its kind, heightened communication, and more partnerships in order to achieve more informed HIV/AIDS prevention and care.

“Immigration and HIV/AIDS in the New York Metropolitan Area” Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, Vol. 83, No. 1 (43-58)

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