Home Institution

Washington University in St. Louis

Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment


Background: The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to be prevalent and to expand in Chile, as in many other regions of Latin America and around the world. Furthermore, it continues to concentrate in distinct, vulnerable populations. Migrant workers represent one such vulnerable population. The HIV/AIDS epidemic disproportionately impacts migrant workers because of the social, economic, and psychological factors that are involved in both migratory behaviors and disease construction.

Aim: This study identified sexual health knowledge and sexual health behavior in the migrant laborer population of Arica, Chile. More specifically, it identified risk factors for HIV/AIDS and explored possible strategies for a preventative disease intervention.

Material and Methods: The study type was quantitative-qualitative and the study design was non-experimental, transversal, and exploratory. Over the period of four weeks, twenty-seven migrant workers were recruited to answer a series of questions about migration patterns, sexual health, and HIV/AIDS. All information was gathered through the use of a questionnaire, administered orally, and organized in aggregate form through the use of tables and graphs.

Results: The study revealed a migrant worker population comprised of mainly women (74.1%) and young adults (85.2% younger than forty-five years). All workers that did not reside in other regions of Chile were from either Peru (44.4%) or Bolivia (48.1%). The majority of participants frequently worked away from home, with 67% working away from home for more than two weeks every month. All but one traveled by bus. Questionnaire responses revealed a disconnect between participant knowledge and participant behavior. Of the eighteen participants who confirmed it was likely they would use a condom during sex, eleven (61.1%) also confirmed that they had had unprotected sex in the past year. Similarly, of the nineteen participants who responded that HIV testing was “very important” and/or “should be obligatory,” nine (47.4%) had never been tested. In total, sixteen participants (59.3%) had never received an HIV test. The majority of participants expressed an interest in receiving additional health education, with 88.9% interested in receiving sexual health information and 92.6% interested in receiving HIV/AIDS information.

Conclusions: Migrant workers in Arica, Chile are at particularly high-risk for contracting HIV/AIDS because they spend long periods away from home, they engage in high-risk sexual behaviors (relations with more than one partner and relations without the use of protection), and they show low rates of HIV testing. A preventative intervention targeting the migrant worker population in Arica would be both valuable and well received. A preventative intervention targeting the migrant worker population in Arica should: (1) Be located at the international bus terminal; (2) Be carried out by community members; (3) Offer sexual education and identify available resources; (4) Encourage fidelity; (5) Offer on-site HIV testing; (6) Teach parents how to knowledgably discuss sexual health with children; (7) Distribute free condoms.


Community-Based Research | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Family, Life Course, and Society | Health Services Research | Inequality and Stratification | International Public Health