Ethnicity and HIV Risk Behaviour, Testing and Knowledge in Guatemala

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Author(s): Taylor TM, Hembling J, Bertrand JT

Year: 2014

Ethn Health.  2014 May 16:1-15.

Data on 16,205 women aged 15–49 and 6822 men aged 15–59 from the 2008–2009 Encuesta Nacional de Salud Materno Infantil were used to describe ethnic group differences in sexual behaviour, HIV knowledge and testing. We then controlled for age, education, wealth and other socio-demographic factors in a multivariate logistic regression model to examine the effects of ethnicity on outcomes related to age at sexual debut, number of lifetime sex partners, comprehensive HIV knowledge, HIV testing and lifetime sex worker patronage (men only).

The data show low levels of risky sexual behaviour and low levels of HIV knowledge among indigenous women and men, compared to other respondents. Controlling for demographic factors, indigenous women were more likely than other women never to have been tested for HIV and to lack comprehensive HIV knowledge. They were less likely to report early sexual debut and three or more lifetime sexual partners. Indigenous men were more likely than other men to lack comprehensive HIV knowledge and demonstrated lower odds of early sexual debut, 10 or more lifetime sexual partners and sex worker patronage.

The Mayan indigenous population in Guatemala, while broadly socially vulnerable, does not appear to be at elevated risk for HIV based on this analysis of selected risk factors. Nonetheless, low rates of HIV knowledge and testing may be cause for concern. Programmes working in indigenous communities should focus on HIV education and reducing barriers to testing. Further research into the factors that underlie ethnic self-identity and perceived ethnicity could help clarify the relative significance of these measures for HIV risk and other health outcomes.