HIV/AIDS risk among international migrants working in the South African informal economy : case studies of Nigerian men.
Akintola, Olubunmi Omoyeni.
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In recent years, South Africa has attracted migrants from other African countries, many of whom find work in the informal sector of the economy. At the same time, African migrants elsewhere in Europe and the US have been shown to have higher rates of HIV infection than the general population. In South Africa, however, little is known about the vulnerability of international migrants to HIV infection. This study explored HIV/AIDS risks among informal economy migrants in the broader context of migration. The objective is to explore HIV/AIDS risk among migrants and to understand how migration experiences shape vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. This is a case study of ten Nigerian migrant traders in the Church Walk flea market in Durban. Ethnographic methods such as participant observation, individual and key informant interviews, as well as informal group discussion were used to collect in-depth data on migrants' motivations for migrating, challenges faced upon arriving in South Africa and sexual risk behaviours. It was found that migrants become vulnerable to HIV/AIDS both during the process of migration and once settled in the informal economy. Migrants found it difficult to secure jobs once in South Africa. Consequently, they had to deal with disillusionment, hunger, homelessness and hopelessness. During this period of hardship, migrants indulged in risky sexual practices such as having unprotected sex with casual partners as a means of dealing with their precarious situation. Migrants also had unprotected sex with many regular and casual partners once in the flea market where, as a last resort, they had found self-employment but had no access to HIV/AIDS intervention programmes. Reasons cited for risky sexual behaviour included separation from regular partners, loneliness, sexual pressures and the lack of social sanctions, which regulated sexual behaviour in their home country. The findings show that international migrants in the informal economy are a potential high-risk group for HIV infection and could transmit HIV to local partners as well as regular partners in their home country. This study highlights the need for interventions to reach this population.