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Understanding Obstacles and Facilitators in HIV Prevention and Care for Venezuelan Migrant/Refugee Women and Girls

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November 28, 2023

By Emily Gallagher

New research published in the Journal of Migration and Health and led by Catalina Correa-Salazar, PhD, assistant professor at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá and a former doctoral research fellow in the department of Community Health and Prevention (CHP) at the Drexel Dornsife School of Public Health, looks at the barriers and facilitators to HIV prevention and care for Venezuelan migrant/refugee women and girls in Colombia. Insights gathered from this qualitative study aim to inform policy decisions and improve programmatic public health efforts in the region.

During and after migration, Venezuelan women and girls risk exposure to infection from HIV and threats of gender-based violence. The study notes recent data that around 10 percent of Venezuelan migrant and refugee women and girls report having experienced at least one type of violence since their arrival in Colombia. Also found in a 2018 study, overcrowding, lack of sanitation, exploitation, harassment, stigma, and lack of information on care services also hinder the ability of this population to access HIV prevention and care in relation to incidents of gender-based violence.

Despite the many risks, research on Venezuelan migrant/refugee women and girls' experiences with HIV prevention and care throughout migration is lacking. Researchers aimed to close the evidence gap by conducting interviews with more than 50 health practitioners and migrants in two major cities in Colombia (Bogotá and Cúcuta).

Using a theory-informed approach, researchers findings describe multi-level obstacles to access to HIV prevention and care related to:

  • Lack of information on rights and system's functioning
  • Discrimination and stigma
  • Barriers to reporting of cases
  • Insufficient budget and coverage of the Colombian health system

“This research tries to center women and girls’ voices, hence the participatory methodology and long-standing relationships with the community of migrants in two cities in Colombia,” said Correa-Salazar.

Researchers urge leaders in migration health to greenlight policies that integrate community-based networks and support intersectoral work. These policies are crucial in bridging the gap between services and communities and developing a gender-sensitive approach that tackles the relationship between gender-based violence and HIV risk.

The study was published in the November 2023 Journal of Migration and Health Vol. 8. Co-authors include researchers from Dornsife: Ana Martinez-Donate, PhD, professor of CHP; Joseph Amon, PhD, MSPH, clinical professor of CHP and director of the Office of Global Health; Ali Groves, PhD, MHS, associate professor of CHP; and Usama Bilal, PhD, MPH, MD, assistant professor of epidemiology and co-director of the Urban Health Collaborative, and researchers from the Corporación Mujer Denuncia y Muévete in Colombia and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Read more about this study: Barriers and facilitators to HIV prevention and care for Venezuelan migrant/refugee women and girls in Colombia.