Immigration, Economics, and Sex, How Are Latinas Impacted?

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Photo courtesy of salud-america.org

In recent decades, studies by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health have thoroughly researched Latino sexuality behavior, especially how risk factors are created in Latina’s sexual behavior. 

The impact of cultural factors directly affects the sexual behavior of our community. Several studies have consistently found that immigrant women’s experience integrating into U.S. norms where the perception of sexuality might be different involves risks and sexual behaviors that increase the rate of sexually transmitted diseases.

According to the research, the evidence was marked by age, origin, and language. For example, Latino teenagers who had already joined the U.S. system and were fluent in English at home were more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors than Latino migrant adolescents who did not speak English at home. 

Why does acculturation make Latinas more likely to relapse into risky sexual behavior?

The research hypothesized that some factors were counterbalanced, while others were elevated. As economic stability, social support, or mother-daughter bonding declined, Latinas increased their chances of becoming a sexually high-risk population. 

Traditional gender roles unbalance this identity hybridization. In the Latino idiosyncrasy, marianismo and machismo play an important role in the sexuality of Latino women. Therefore, when entering into a more significant percentage of this hybrid identity, it becomes a risk. According to Latino masculinity, men must be sexually dominant and not being faithful by having multiple sexual partners. According to Latino marianism, Latina women must be docile and obedient. Not surprisingly, Latinas who have less control in relationships are more likely to have unprotected sex with their partners. These gender roles influence Latinas’ identity on power issues within sexuality: whether to use condoms, communicate with partners, or seek new lovers. 

Education, Freedom, and Money as Risk Factors in Sexual Behavior

Previous studies have found individual determinants related to sexual risk behaviors among Latinas. More mature adult women or married women are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, specifically unprotected sex. 

Similarly, women with lower educational levels and higher incomes are possible victims, as well as those diagnosed with mental disorders.

In current and longer-term studies, it is noteworthy that Latina immigrants who have recently arrived in the United States show lower risk levels in their sexual behavior than their U.S.-born counterparts. Could these studies be telling us that economic freedom and safe spaces generate risky behaviors in sexual encounters?

That is why, understanding that both individually and collectively, sexual behaviors continue to exist and put the Latino community at risk, the studies suggest a community-based HIV prevention intervention. It also calls on public health professionals and policymakers to consider funding and efforts beyond the immigration issues that have been on the public agenda since Trump came to power. 

Spending on education budgets and follow-up campaigns can be an important factor in teaching appropriate and consistent condom use among Latino heterosexual men, as well as destigmatizing their use. Most researchers recommend continued education on sexual prophylaxis and negotiation techniques in the sexual arena to empower Latina women.

The study’s findings also raise the need for more research to increase the generalization and implications of health policies for large groups of Latinas, such as those of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent. 

Despite the limitations of all the studies conducted, they all expand scientific knowledge about the sociocultural determinants and correlates of sexual risk behavior among adult Latinas. 

In addition to addressing sexual risk behavior, these new studies involve new variables that include the ecological theory of community systems and other legal aspects of the Latino population, such as the need to have women on probation and thus decrease the likelihood of risky sexual behaviors. 

Finally, public health professionals should consider prevention interventions for sexual risk behaviors in committed heterosexual Latino couples since sex without a condom with the primary partner is a primary form of infection for adult Latinas. 

Future policies and funding mechanisms should consider that HIV infection from men to women is the primary way of transmission and that future studies should fill the current gap in research and knowledge about the Latina population.