Purpose To characterize the level of HIV awareness and describe the specific obstacles to sexual safety that exist for the Latino farm worker population of southwestern Idaho in order to design well-targeted intervention and education programs.
Methods 34 Latino men, ages 18-58, were recruited by door-to-door flyering to participate in three focus group discussions, conducted in Spanish, at farm worker housing units in Caldwell and Nampa, Idaho. Focus groups employed a self-administered questionnaire assessing demographic and HIV/AIDS knowledge, followed by an hour and a half discussion of attitudes and barriers towards sexual safety. Quantitative data were analyzed to find statistical correlation, whereas qualitative data from group discussion was transcribed from audio recordings and analyzed for common patterns of thought.
Results Correct identification of true routes of HIV transmission was high (eg, both sharing needles and sexual intercourse were believed to be possible routes by 88% of participants); however, misconceptions regarding incorrect routes of transmission were also high (eg, 62% believed mosquitoes to be a vector of transmission and 56% believed it possible to contract the virus from public bathrooms). Chi-square statistical analysis revealed a trend for married participants to have a higher degree of HIV knowledge than their single counterparts (p = .049). Ambivalent attitudes towards condom use were common, with many citing their importance in preventing disease but also complaining of their disadvantages (decreased pleasure, tendency to break, embarrassment when purchasing, partner's dissatisfaction with use, etc). Female commercial sex work for money or drugs in farm worker labor camps was a frequently mentioned threat to the sexual safety of the community. Also, discussion regarding HIV testing revealed a willingness to be tested but an unawareness of how or where to do so. Common concerns involved the cost of testing and the fear of knowing one's HIV status.
Conclusions Strategies for intervention should target single males, emphasizing the advantages of appropriate condom use and the risks associated with sex with prostitutes. Free HIV testing campaigns are also needed in order to increase access to the farm worker population and decrease stigma and fear of testing.
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