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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Migrant Farmers Urged to Have HIV Testing
Gene Vernacchio
August 15, 2003
Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, N.J.)(08.14.03) - Friday, August

The New Jersey AIDS Partnership recently awarded a $40,002 grant to CATA [El Comit� de Apoyo a Los Trabajadores Agr�colas, or The Farm Worker Support Committee], an organization that has urged migrant farm workers across South Jersey to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. "Being migrant, this is a population that is susceptible to the dangers of HIV and the AIDS epidemic," said Executive Director Nelson Carrasquillo. He said most farm workers, coming from rural areas in their native countries, have limited or no access to HIV education.

In the 1990s, 3.4 percent of migrant farm workers CATA tested in New Jersey were HIV-positive, a figure eight times the national average. As an example of the success of CATA's HIV/AIDS outreach program, the group has tested 500 farm workers who received HIV/AIDS education over the past three years. Only two tested positive.

The majority of farm workers are men who travel the eastern migrant stream without their families, CATA officials said. Living on farm labor camps with limited transportation, the men feel isolated and virtually stranded. The seclusion, according to CATA officials, can lead to incidences of prostitution, same-sex encounters, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Carrasquillo said CATA representatives have offered HIV education and outreach to approximately 1,500 laborers in each of the past three years in Gloucester, Camden, Cumberland, Atlantic and Salem counties and parts of Burlington County. Challenges to CATA's work include workers' high mobility rate, language barriers and a high illiteracy rate. CATA representatives try to develop relationships in the camps to cultivate a level of trust to make it easier to discuss sensitive topics.