Background: Migrant workers worldwide are at high risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Over the past decade Central Asia has experienced an increase in new HIV infections and migration and mobility within the region. These trends call for mixed methods research to explore the environmental and mobility contexts in which HIV risk behaviors occur among Central Asian migrants, particularly those in Kazakhstan, a common destination country.
Methods: This study took place in Almaty’s Baraholka Market, which employs 30,000 workers including many migrant workers from Central Asian countries. We used a convenience sampling approach to recruit 48 male migrant workers from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. Through in-depth interviews, we examined both their engagement in a number of sexual HIV risk behaviors (including having outside partners, sex trading, and condom use) as well as the meaning they attributed to such behaviors. We also address micro-social contexts (employment, types of relationships, infidelity, and access to resources), macro-contexts (gender roles and power dynamics) and structural contexts (mobility and policing) to examine how environmental influences influenced HIV risks.
Results: Findings suggest that men in this study attributed sex with extramarital partners to sexual desires when wives are unable to have sex, mobility and separation, need for variety, and lack of satisfaction in marriage. Factors influencing condom use included trust, sexual pleasure, intention to protect one’s health, and alcohol use. Participants had low levels of knowledge about HIV/AIDS; believed HIV did not affect their community or social networks, and had limited access to health care.
Conclusions: Study findings call for a combination of contextually sustainable HIV/STI prevention strategies that target migrant workers in Central Asia.