Sex Differences in Patterns of Migration and HIV Risk in Western Kenya

Investigator: Carol Camlin, PhD

Location(s): Kenya

Parent Project: UCSF-Gladstone Center for AIDS Research (CFAR)


Research on the role of migration in the spread of HIV/AIDS has almost exclusively focused on male labor migration patterns, finding migration to be a risk factor for men and their non-migrant partners, yet neglecting to measure the HIV risks of migration for women. Moreover, the very manner in which migration is conventionally studied is shaped by the paradigm of male labor migration, and thus fails to capture the complexity of women's mobility in sub-Saharan Africa today. Yet, prior research suggests that women are significantly involved in migration flows in sub-Saharan Africa, where their rates of HIV infection exceed those of men. This pilot study thus addresses a neglected area of HIV prevention research: the HIV risks associated with migration for women. The objectives of this ethnographic study are to: 1) characterize and compare the types of migration and mobility among women and men in western Kenya; 2) characterize the spatial and social features of the common destinations of female migrants; and 3) identify the features of women's migration experience which may render it particularly hazardous vis-a-vis their HIV infection risk. We will carry out participant observation in the "high HIV risk environments" of selected common migration destinations in Nyanza Province, and in-depth semi-structured interviews female and male migrants systematically selected from key migration destinations. The findings of this pilot study will provide preliminary data to support a proposal for a larger mixed-methods study in the research site, culminating in the design of an HIV prevention intervention with female migrants.