Staunton, February 12 – Women coming to the Russian Federation from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are at much greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS than are Russians because of the impact of different norms of sexual behavior there and because of their inability or failure to get medical attention, according to a new Russian study.
These results are likely to stimulate both more anti-immigrant attitudes among Russians who already often view migrants as sources of disease and crime and more concern among the leaders of Central Asian countries about the consequences for their own societies of having a large fraction of their populations spend time in the Russian Federation.
In the current issue of “Demograficheskoye obozreniye, Viktor Agadzhanyan of the University of Arizona and Natalya Zotova of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology present the findings of their survey of 564 Central Asian women in Moscow, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg (opec.ru/1793562.html).
They note that other investigations have shown that female migrants in many parts of the world are more inclined to risky sexual behavior and thus face the risk of HIV/AIDS infection than are male migrants, a pattern that their studied showed held true for women migrants from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in the Russian Federation.
Even when they remain as they often do within their own communities in Russian cities, they are affected by the very different sexual mores found there, changing partners or having multiple partners far more often than would ever have been the case at home and not taking the precautions needed to minimize the risk of infection or seeking medical attention.
More than two-thirds of the women in their sample, Agadzhanyan and Zotova say, are married, either officially or in unregistered ones. Almost a third has higher or incomplete higher education. And many of them have become citizens of the Russian Federation, with the share of those acquiring that status highest among the Kyrgyz.
The average number of sexual partners among the Kyrgyz is higher than among the Uzbeks and Tajiks, 1.4 as compared to 1.2 and 1.0 respectively. Compared to the other two, the Kyrgyz women are more sexually liberated and are more inclined than are the Uzbeks or Tajiks in refusing to have sex, with 60 percent of them saying they have done so.
At the same time, the study found, Uzbek women are more convinced that their partners are not having sex with others – 70 percent said that, a figure higher than among Russians, Kyrgyz and Tajiks. But all three Central Asian groups are far less likely than Russians to insist on the use of condoms.
“Almost half of all the women questioned – 47 percent – are concerned about the risk of HIV infection,” Tajiks somewhat less – 32 percent – and Kyrgyz and Uzbeks somewhat more 53 and 55 percent respectively. The figure among ethnic Russians, the two researchers said, is 45 percent.
But because of high medical costs and the risk of being deported if they are discovered to have HIV infections, Central Asian women migrants are often not tested until they become pregnant. The three groups are very different in this regard, however. Kyrgyz and Uzbek women are approximately three times as likely as Tajik women (21 percent) to be tested.
According to the scholars, the Tajik pattern reflects the fact that Uzbek and Kyrgyz women have on average more sexual partners than Tajik women do and that Uzbek and Tajik women are more likely to have sex while drunk, something rarer among Tajik women in part because rarer among Tajik men and in part because they are more likely to insist on condom use.