The social constructions of sexuality: marital infidelity and sexually transmitted disease-HIV risk in a Mexican migrant community

Am J Public Health. 2002 Aug;92(8):1227-37. doi: 10.2105/ajph.92.8.1227.


Objectives: This article explores the social context of the migration-related HIV epidemic in western Mexico.

Methods: Data collection involved life histories and participant observation with migrant women in Atlanta and their sisters or sisters-in-law in Mexico.

Results: Both younger and older women acknowledged that migrant men's sexual behavior may expose them to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.Younger Mexican women in both communities expressed a marital ideal characterized by mutual intimacy, communication, joint decisionmaking, and sexual pleasure, but not by willingness to use condoms as an HIV prevention strategy.

Conclusions: Migrant Mexican women's commitment to an illusion of fidelity will hinder HIV prevention initiatives targeted toward them. Furthermore, the changing meanings of marital sex may make it harder to convince young couples to use condoms as an HIV prevention strategy. If the chain of heterosexual marital HIV transmission is to be interrupted in this community, prevention programs must target men.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Extramarital Relations
  • Female
  • Georgia / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / ethnology*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Marriage / ethnology*
  • Mexican Americans / psychology*
  • Mexico / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Safe Sex / ethnology*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / ethnology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology*
  • Women's Health*