XVIII International AIDS Conference


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Immigrant sexuality: perceptions of sexual rights of immigrants in transit to the U.S.

R.G. Silván Pérez, C. Infante Xibillé, M. Caballero García, L. Campero Cuenca

Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública de México, Centro de Investigación en Sistemas de Salud, Cuernavaca, Mexico

Background: Mexico, has given priority to health promotion and HIV prevention in immigrant populations in transit to the United States (US), however, the majority of strategies lack of a comprehensive framework on human and sexual rights. To better understand certain aspects of migrant sexuality and their gender roles along their journey. We also wanted to differentiate between their practices and perceptions of sexual rights.
Methods: 28 in depth interviews were conducted with Central American immigrants and key informants in both Mexico´s northern (US) and southern border (Guatemala). Access to immigrants was facilitated by the “Casas del Migrante”, shelters where migrants receive humanitarian, legal and spiritual assistance. The categories of analysis used were: perceptions and meanings in the exercise of their sexuality, experiences and opportunities of resistance in situations of sexual exploitation, coercion, sexual abuse, and access to sexual health care in transit.
Results: Along their journey immigrants may have to deal with sexual coercion, exploitation, survival sex, and sex in exchange of money, goods and protection. Immigrant's self-perception of being "illegal" makes them to assume that the risks they encounter are part of their destiny and determined by “god's will”. There are differences of how men in comparison with women exercise their sexuality. For men women have and advantage over them, since women can use their “body card” to negotiate their transit to the US.
Conclusions: The vulnerability of immigrants shapes their perception of rights and risks. As a result there is little chance for them to effectively confront and resist situations where they human and sexual rights are being aggravated. There are differences on the perception of sexual rights between men and women which are determined by unequal relations of power and control.

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