i had the pleasure of meeting dr. carlos cabrera, of the yucatan peninsula, mexico, at a planned parenthood-hosted event showcasing the work of brazos abiertos (open arms).
many residents of the yucatan come to the united states as migrant workers, and some return to the yucatan with hiv. the vision of brazos abiertos is “to be the catalyst for change where knowledge, prevention, and treatment of aids replace fear, discrimination, prejudice, and death for those infected."
there are many mayans in the yucatan; many don’t speak spanish, and because of this, face discrimination when attempting to access health services. men who have sex with men (msm) face further discrimination. brazos abiertos has found that because yucatan mayans are "curious” and “like to participate in community events,” an open hiv testing model (public testing) works very well for them. however, once someone has a reactive/positive hiv test, they usually face much discrimination. dr. cabrera told us of:
- the president of the human rights commission of the state of yucatan declaring, in 2001, that hiv-infected individuals should be isolated and “shot to kill” if they crossed hospital security lines,
- job applicants often being forced to be tested for hiv, despite it being a violation of the law,
- the local “charity” hospital having only one bed available for those dying of aids-related complications; there’s a sign above the bed that reads, “sida” (aids), and
- stories shared of families discriminating hiv-positive individuals, post-disclosure, making them live in backyard pig pens, and only feeding them when they feed the pigs: once a day.
whew. thank goodness for the work of dr. cabrera & brazos abiertos.
random tidbit: look for dr. cabrera in “the daily show” skit above.