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A potential HIV epidemic among male street laborers in urban Vietnam

Van Huy, Nguyen (2012) A potential HIV epidemic among male street laborers in urban Vietnam. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.

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Background: Mass migration to Asian cities is a defining phenomenon of the present age, as hundreds of millions of people move from rural areas or between cities in search of economic prosperity. Although many do prosper, large numbers of people experience significant social disadvantage. This is especially the case among poorly educated, migrant unskilled unregistered male laborers who do much of the manual work throughout the cities. These men are at significant risk for many health problems, including HIV infection. However, to date there has been little research in developing countries to explain the determinants of this risk, and thereby to suggest feasible preventive strategies.

Objectives and Methodology: Using combined qualitative and quantitative methods, the aim of this study was to explore the social contexts that affect health vulnerabilities and to develop conceptual models to predict risk behaviors for HIV [illicit drug use, unsafe sex, and non-testing for HIV] among male street laborers in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Qualitative Research: Sixteen qualitative interviews revealed a complex variety of life experiences, beliefs and knowledge deficits that render these mostly poor and minimally educated men vulnerable to health problems including HIV infection. This study formed a conceptual model of numerous stressors related to migrants’ life experiences in urban space, including physical, financial and social factors. A wide range of coping strategies were adopted to deal with stressors – including problem-focused coping (PFC) and emotion-focused coping (EFC), pro-social and anti-social, active and passive. These men reported difficulty in coping with stressors because they had weak social networks and lacked support from formal systems. A second conceptual model emerged that highlighted equivalent influences of individual psychological factors, social integration, social barriers, and accessibility regarding drug use and sexual risk behavior. Psychological dimensions such as tedium, distress, fatalism and revenge, were important. There were strong effects of collective decision-making and fear of social isolation on shaping risk behaviors. These exploratory qualitative interviews helped to develop a culturally appropriate instrument for the quantitative survey and informed theoretical models of the factors that affect risk behaviors for HIV infection.

Quantitative Research: The Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills (IMB) model was adopted as the theoretical framework for a large-scale survey. It was modified to suit the contexts of these Vietnamese men. By doing a social mapping technique, 450 male street laborers were interviewed in Hanoi, Vietnam. The survey revealed that the risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV was high among these men. One in every 12 men reported homosexual or bisexual behavior. These men on average had 3 partners within the preceding year, and condom use was inconsistent. One third had had sex with commercial sex workers (CSW) and only 30% of them reported condom use; 17% used illicit drugs sometimes, with 66.7% of them frequently sharing injecting equipment with peers. Despite the risks, only 19.8% of men had been tested for HIV during the previous 12 months. These men have limited HIV knowledge and only moderate motivation and perceived behavioral skills for protective behavior.

Although rural-to-urban migration was not associated with sexual risk behavior, three elements of the IMB model and depression associated with the process of mobility were significant determinants of sexual behavior. A modified model that incorporated IMB elements and psychosocial stress was found to be a better fit than the original IMB model alone in predicting protected sex behavior among the men. Men who were less psychologically and socially stressed, better informed and motivated for HIV prevention were more likely to demonstrate behavioral skills, and in turn were more likely to engage in safer sexual behavior. With regard to drug use, although the conventional model accounted for slightly less variance than the modified IMB model, data were of better fit for the conventional model.

Multivariate analyses revealed that men who originated from urban areas, those who were homo- or bi-sexually identified and had better knowledge and skills for HIV prevention were more likely to access HIV testing, while men who had more sexual partners and those who did not use a condom for sex with CSW were least likely to take a test. The modified IMB model provided a better fit than the conventional model, as it explained a greater variance in HIV testing.

Conclusions and Implications: This research helps to highlight a potential hidden HIV epidemic among street male, unskilled, unregistered laborers. This group has multiple vulnerabilities to HIV infection through both their partners and peers. However, most do not know their HIV status and have limited knowledge about preventing infection.

This is the first application of a modified IMB model of risk behaviors for HIV such as drug use, condom use, and uptake of HIV testing to research with male street laborers in urban settings. The study demonstrated that while the extended IMB model had better fit than the conventional version in explaining the behaviors of safe sex and HIV testing, it was not so for drug use. The results provide interesting directions for future research and suggest ways to effectively design intervention strategies. The findings should shed light on culturally appropriate HIV preventive education and support programs for these men. As Vietnam has much in common with other developing countries in Southeast Asia, this research provides evidence for policy and practice that may be useful for public health systems in similar countries.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 53354
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Dunne, Michael & Debattista, Joseph
Additional Information: Recipient of 2012 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award.
Keywords: coping , depression , drug use, epidemic, factors, health problems, HIV testing, HIV/AIDS, IMB model, internal migration, male street laborer, modified imb model, prevalence, risk behavior, sexual behavior, stress, unskilled, unregistered laborer, urban, Vietnam, ODTA
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 28 Aug 2012 02:55
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2013 04:27

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