Increase in HIV infection reported in border towns

The Associated Press
Monday March 18, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — New field surveys of Hispanic men in Tijuana and San Diego show an increase in HIV infection rates in gay and bisexual men who move across the border. 

The rates of infection are as much as four times as high as those in other California cities, said George F. Lemp, director of the University of California’s AIDS Research Program. 

Infection rates in San Diego are particularly high, with more than 35 percent of gay and bisexual Hispanic men infected with HIV. In Tijuana, almost 19 percent were infected. 

“Those numbers are alarming and shocking, and they come as a real surprise,” Lemp told the San Francisco Chronicle. “While the AIDS epidemic exists so far only in pockets in Mexico, there’s a danger that it will explode, so we need to look closely at the behaviors and the centers of infection in both border regions.” 

In comparable populations, previous studies have found infection rates of up to 9 percent, in cities such as San Francisco, Sacramento and Long Beach. Los Angeles County has a rate of about 16 percent. 

The study, done by the Bi-National AIDS Advocacy Project, looked at 400 volunteers. It found that in Tijuana, only about 56 percent of the men had received information on preventing the spread of HIV and 46 percent had been tested for the virus. In San Diego, 77 percent received information and 63 percent had been tested. 

Researchers plan to look at two cities in Mexico known for sending a lot of men to work in California and two California counties with large populations of Mexican migrant workers.