Objectives: Significant gaps exist in addressing the HIV/AIDS prevention needs of culturally diverse populations in the United States, particularly in African immigrant communities. This anthropological research examines culturally specific factors that impede understanding of HIV transmission and prevention education among African immigrants in California.
Methods: One hundred twenty study participants (60 men and 60 women) were recruited through community organizations; 33 percent were Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants. The study methods consisted of focus group interviews with key informants, in-depth individual interviews, and a brief self-reported HIV risk behavior survey. This study reports data pertaining only to Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants. Relevant research literature and government HIV/AIDS statistics also were reviewed.
Results: Members of the immigrant community are aware of HIV/AIDS; however, they do not recognize their own HIV risk behaviors. Potential HIV risk behaviors reported among these immigrants include not using condoms, having multiple sexual partners; consuming alcohol; stigma, denial, and fear surrounding HIV testing; and risk behaviors associated with vacationers traveling back and forth between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the United States.
Conclusion and Recommendations: Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants in California hold similar attitudes and behaviors to those found in their country of origin, and they underestimate their HIV risk from engaging in various risky behaviors. The various barriers to HIV testing must be addressed if these immigrants are to take advantage of access to early treatment and prevent further HIV infection in the community. There is an urgent need for community leaders in these two immigrant groups to provide culturally appropriate venues for breaking the silence surrounding HIV risks in the community before the situation worsens.