Objective: To present a multi-centre study that analyses the socioeconomic, cultural and political contexts that give rise to population mobility, and its relationship to vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections (STI)/HIV/AIDS, in order to provide information that can be used to design appropriate and focused interventions.
Methods: In each of 11 transit stations (border towns, port cities, areas where mobile populations congregate) in Central America and Mexico, a household survey of the local population was conducted to analyse demographic, socioeconomic characteristics, and information known and opinions held about HIV/AIDS and mobile populations. In-depth interviews with key informants, community members and mobile populations were held to ascertain knowledge about prevention and transmission of STI/HIV/AIDS. Likewise, an ethnographic study was undertaken to identify interactions between local and mobile populations.
Results: The transit stations share low educational levels among the local population, few public services, repeated human rights violations, violence, poverty and corrupt authorities. Within this social context, transactional sex, sex for survival, rape and non-professional commercial sex happen in conditions that increase the risk of the transmission of STI/HIV, such as infrequent condom use. Migrant women and sex workers are particularly vulnerable in this context. A wide gap exists between information about STI/HIV transmission and reported prevention practices.
Conclusion: Given the conditions that exist in these transit stations, interventions should be multisectoral, sustainable, and should defend the human rights of various groups, including women and people living with HIV/AIDS.