Islamic Influence on HIV Risk and Protection Among Central Asian Male Migrant Workers in Kazakhstan.

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Abstract

HIV incidence is increasing in Central Asia, where migrant workers experience risks for acquiring sexually transmitted HIV. As a social and structural factor that may influence perceptions and behavior, we examine how Islam shapes HIV risk and protection. Phenomenological qualitative interviews examine religion and contexts of HIV risk among 48 male Central Asian migrant workers residing in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Men described nonvaginal sex, alcohol use, premarital sex, and extramarital sex as forbidden or frowned upon. Religious networks were unlikely to discuss HIV risks, and some men viewed religious affiliation or practices as protective. Marital practices including neke (religious marriage), polygyny, and bride kidnapping may be linked to risk. Findings suggest adhering to Islamic ideals may be protective for some men, but for others, assumptions of protection may enhance risk. HIV prevention strategies among Central Asian migrants may be strengthened by attention to religious and cultural understandings of risk and protection.

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