Farmworkers in the U.S.

Reversing America’s Declining Health Trend Means Focusing in Equity

For the first time in decades, the current generation isn’t as healthy as the one that came before.” The theme for day five of National Public Health Week is “Be the Healthiest Nation in One Generation” and is dedicated to turning around the declining trend in health faced by Americans today. To address this trend, it’s important that we understand the barriers to good health faced by all people in the United States. At Farmworker Justice, we spend a lot of time contemplating migration as a social determinant of health. Specifically, we discuss the roadblocks that affect good health and quality of life and we think about ways to lift those roadblocks, either through advocating for policy change or through health promotion and education projects.

In terms of farmworkers, migration from their home to the U.S. has a lot to do with their health. Just a few factors related to migration that affect farmworkers include poverty, language, discrimination, and national policies.

Most farmworkers live at or below the poverty line. Health outcomes of people who live near the poverty line are worse than for those who enjoy higher incomes.
Eighty-one percent of farmworkers speak Spanish but immediately after arriving in the U.S. they need to navigate everything from grocery stores, public schools, housing, and health clinics almost entirely in English.
• Discrimination, both overt acts of discrimination and microagressions (every day, more subtle forms of discrimination), is associated with increased anxiety, anger, depression, and stress levels.
• Policy can be discriminatory when it is does not provide protections to workers equitably across professions. For example, many states do not require agricultural employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for farmworkers, even though agriculture is ranked among the most dangerous occupations by the U.S. Department of Labor.
• Policies that don’t seem to be about health, like immigration policy, can actually have a great impact on the health and wellbeing of our community members. For example, children who hear about deportations may constantly fear the separation of their families and people who cannot obtain driver’s licenses may avoid driving to a clinic.

Not only do poverty, language barriers, discrimination, and policy serve as enormous sources of stress, but they also stand in the way of accessing and receiving appropriate medical and mental health services. In addition, sixty-four percent of farmworkers are uninsured, so even when they do seek care, paying for it presents another barrier.

To reverse the decline in the nation’s health outcomes, it is important to address the barriers, social inequalities, and injustices that contribute to the decline. We must also recognize that the health of each individual is affected by the overall health of our communities so working toward better health outcomes for the entire community will create better health for each individual.
 

Farmworkers and our Food Safety System

The CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne illnesses. We’ve all seen the frightening consequences from fruits and vegetables contaminated with salmonella or listeria. Eating safe, healthy food, today's theme of National Public Health Week, is a basic building block of public health. While most conversations about this topic revolve around responding to outbreaks or creating more rigorous standards and surveillance by government agencies, few consider the important role of farmworkers in preventing foodborne illnesses.

Food safety advocates have long recognized that the working conditions and training of farmworkers can significantly affect food safety: overworked and underpaid farmworkers in the field are typically not encouraged to look out for safety concerns. If employers don't provide sanitary facilities, or fail to provide the necessary training or economic incentives to stop production when unsafe conditions exist, important opportunities to improve food safety are lost. 

Farmworker Justice is a co-founder of a unique collaboration between farmworker, environmental and consumer advocates, retailers, and farmers that aims to promote food safety and improve working conditions in the produce industry. The Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) has developed a set of food safety, labor, and pesticide standards and a training program to help farmworkers and farm owners and their managers work together to implement the standards. 

EFI's food safety standards recognize that farmworkers are often the first line of defense against contaminated food. Under the EFI system, workers receive training to recognize food safety risks and are encouraged to report unsafe conditions, improper practices or procedures in the field to their supervisor. It’s a common sense approach to food safety that benefits workers, growers, retailers and consumers: fresh fruits and vegetables grown and harvested in ways that respect workers can help reduce the potential for transmission of foodborne illness.
 

National Public Health Week: Getting Ahead with Preventative Health Care

Day three of National Public Health Week is entitled “Get Out Ahead!” and is dedicated to prevention as a national priority. Community and migrant health centers across the United States serve the preventative and primary health care needs of many of the farmworkers who plant, tend, and harvest the nation’s crops. Farmworkers and their families encounter numerous barriers to accessing health care such as cost, transportation, language, and lack of sick leave, to name a few. Outreach is a critical component of health care delivery to farmworker communities. I spent several years as a farmworker health outreach worker in rural North Carolina. This personal experience working in farmworker health in a small community provides insight to health problems faced by farmworkers and the barriers they regularly face when seeking health care.

Let’s first start with some quick farmworker health facts. Agricultural work is low paying, physically demanding work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked agriculture as the third most dangerous job in 2012. Many farmworker families live at or below the poverty level and approximately 64% are uninsured. Cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are among the top five causes of death for Latinos in the U.S. For farmworkers, specifically, many of whom are Latino, a recent study showed an elevated prevalence of anemia and obesity and stunting in children of farmworker families. The burden of these conditions can be lessened or prevented under the regular care of a physician. Lack of insurance limits the options that farmworkers have when they seek health care and it is sometimes a barrier to receiving care at all. Many turn to community and migrant health centers to receive preventative care where they are able to pay for health care on a sliding-fee scale based on their income. Outreach workers are a valuable part of the health care team at these health centers.

As an outreach worker, the farmworkers I served worked in the Christmas tree fields nine months of the year. Many traveled from Mexico year after year to do this work, leaving behind their homes and families to live with other farmworkers in old houses, trailers, or barracks that were provided by the growers that hired them.

My work entailed visiting farmworkers in their homes in the evenings after work, collecting their personal and contact information, asking questions about their health, and screening for diabetes, high blood pressure, and HIV. They would usually be cleaning up from work and taking turns in the kitchen so many of these conversations happened while they cooked dinner and made lunch for work the next day. I let them know their options for accessing health care in their community and explained the process for making and paying for appointments. During the day, I coordinated these appointments, making calls to farmworkers, clinics, and specialists. I drove farmworkers to appointments and provided Spanish-English interpretation. I learned about their home towns. I heard border crossing stories. I knew when their kids in Mexico were getting in trouble at school. Working in this capacity allowed me to spend the time necessary to gain the trust of farmworkers within our community. I used this insight to help doctors, nurses, dentists, and clinic administrators better understand the conditions that affect farmworkers’ health and adjust treatment plans to best fit the realities they face.

The outreach workers at community and migrant health centers connect farmworkers to important preventative health care services through education, case management, and building trust within the community. The work, while challenging, is extremely fulfilling. We recognize that regardless of where you live, everyone has a right to be healthy. Our nation’s farmworkers, who harvest the fruits and vegetables essential to our health, deserve access to quality health care.

National Public Health Week: Don't Panic! Disaster Preparedness & Farmworkers

The theme for day 2 of 2014 National Public Health Week is disaster preparedness. In recent years, natural disasters in the U.S. have heightened awareness of both individual and community-wide strategies for best preparing for, surviving, and rebuilding after a natural disaster. We have also learned that some populations within our communities fare worse than others and that special consideration should be taken to prepare these populations and to respond to diverse needs before, during, and after a disaster.

Farmworkers and other rural immigrant communities may not receive education on disaster preparedness when it is not culturally-appropriate, written in their primary language, or distributed at venues they trust and frequent. During a disaster, farmworker homes may not be easy to physically locate, as they are sometimes hidden and isolated or “off the grid.” Emergency services may not have records indicating where farmworkers live or their residences may be inaccessible. When seeking help, farmworkers may have difficulty communicating in English with emergency responders and may not know how to access assistance.

In 2007, wildfires in San Diego County, California burned 368,316 acres and destroyed 1,751 homes. Farmworker communities were unprepared to respond to the disaster and were especially vulnerable to the effects of the fire. Safety net providers in the community were not equipped to respond to the cultural, linguistic, economic, and health needs of this displaced community. There were fears about the presence of the Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies. Few had information about shelters and other available assistance. As a result of the fire, many farmworkers lost their work and homes and were unable to access food, water and health care.

After the wildfires, the FarmWorker CARE Coalition (FWCC), a coalition of health centers, community-based organizations, government agencies and academic institutions in San Diego County, developed an emergency preparedness plan for farmworker communities. The emergency preparedness plan relies on community leaders to educate and prepare community members in the event of a disaster. In addition, the FWCC advocates at the local, state and national level to improve access to emergency preparedness information, resources and relief for limited English proficient, hard-to-reach communities.

Farmworker communities need access to information about available resources in the event of a disaster. In preparing the community for a disaster, community-based organizations and leaders in the farmworker community should be involved to engage farmworkers in creating an emergency plan. An effective emergency plan will include culturally- and linguistically-appropriate education and resources to prepare farmworkers before a disaster; a way to most effectively contact and distribute safety messages to farmworkers and their families during an event; and also a plan for identifying and reaching families or individuals who may need help.

To support community health centers, community-based organizations, and others in farmworker communities with disaster and emergency preparedness planning, We have developed materials on available disaster-related food, housing, and income assistance which are available for download from our website. Farmworkers should not be left out of community emergency preparedness. By working together and planning ahead, everyone in our communities will be better prepared and better served during a natural disaster.
 

National Public Health Week: Be Healthy from the Start

April 7th begins the 2014 National Public Health Week! Today’s theme, “Be healthy from the start,” is especially important when bringing awareness to the current state of farmworker health in this country. Today, we focus on farmworker children and access to health care.

Individuals with health insurance are more likely to seek medical care. In the U.S., a staggering number of farmworker children do not have health insurance. Data on farmworkers and their families are hard to collect because of the seasonal and migratory nature of farm work. For this reason, we focus on statistics that describe rural Latinos in the U.S.:

• 31% of rural Latino children are uninsured, compared to 15% of African-American children and 18% of non-Hispanic white children.
• Only 33% of first-generation immigrant children are continuously insured.
• Rural Latino children whose parents are immigrants are even more likely to lack health insurance, even though the majority of them qualify for enrollment in Medicaid or the Child Health Insurance program (CHIP).

Cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are among the top five causes of death for Latinos in the U.S. The burden of these conditions can be lessened or prevented under the regular care of a physician. Children with health insurance are more likely to have a regular source of health care than children without health insurance. Children who receive regular medical care may grow into adults that value preventative care.

Farmworker Justice is working to diminish the disparity in health care coverage experienced by rural Latino children in the U.S. In the coming weeks, we will be rolling out a program called Conexiones: Connecting Rural Latino Families to Medicaid and CHIP. Four community-based organizations in Florida, North Carolina, California, and Arizona will work with Farmworker Justice to train promotores de salud (lay health workers) to conduct outreach in their communities. They will educate their peers on the eligibility requirements for enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP and help to connect them to state and local resources. In two years, the promotores de salud are expected to reach over 14,000 rural Latinos with information on Medicaid and CHIP, which will increase health care coverage of children in their communities substantially.

This program utilizes the promotores de salud model because these community health workers are extremely effective in engaging in outreach in their communities, especially with hard-to-reach populations. Often sharing the same language and cultural background as those receiving their outreach efforts, they know best where to find their fellow community members and how to effectively deliver important messages about health and in this case, access to health care.
 

Agricultural Exceptionalism: A History of Discrimination against Farmworkers in Labor Laws Results in Poverty for Farmworkers

Jose is a 33-year-old farmworker from Puerto Rico who started working in agriculture at the age of 17. Throughout the years, Jose has traveled up and down the East Coast working in apple, peach, corn, lettuce, basil, celery, blackberry, pumpkin, broccoli, sugarcane, and strawberry crops in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and New Jersey. A typical work day for Jose starts at 5:00 am. He usually works around 47 hours a week.

In a recent job in Virginia, Jose was paid by a piece rate based on how much he could pick. When he was unable to harvest enough to make enough with the piece rate, he was paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Jose says that he feels this system is “a trap.” He explains that in order to really make a lot more than the minimum wage, you really have to sacrifice your body. 

Jose has never seen a portable toilet in the fields. He also explained that the employers used to pay the Puerto Rican farmworkers for their transportation back to Puerto Rico after the season, but now the farmworkers have to pay for their trips home as well as their transportation from Puerto Rico to the farms. Jose says that makes it more difficult for workers to come since they have significantly higher costs.

Jose loves doing farm work and plans on doing it for many years. He says it’s the employers and the harsh conditions they create that make the work very difficult. That’s why there are not many people doing farm work anymore. Jose has witnessed undocumented workers treated differently from documented workers and forced to work in harsher conditions. He believes that immigration reform will improve the living and working conditions for all farmworkers.

 

The low-wages and poor working conditions that Jose describes result in part from the discriminatory treatment of farmworkers in U.S. labor laws. During the New Deal Era, President Roosevelt struck a bargain with Southern Democrats: they would support worker rights legislation so long as their farmworkers (and other predominantly African-American workers, such as domestic workers) were exempt. Thus, Congress excluded farmworkers from the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA), the main federal law that protects workers who join and organize labor unions, and from the federal minimum wage and overtime protections in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (farmworker children were also excluded from the child labor protections during times when they were not legally required to be in school). Not until 1966 did Congress require employers to pay farmworkers the federal minimum wage. To this day, farmworkers remain excluded from federal overtime requirements, the NLRA, many states’ workers’ compensation laws, and many occupational health and safety protections. The protections for child farmworkers are also weaker than the child labor protections in all other industries.

The labor law exclusions result in poor working conditions and low wage rates for farmworkers who struggle to make ends meet. Farmworker wages are among the lowest in the country: poverty among farmworkers is roughly double that of all wage and salary employees. Additionally, farm work consistently ranks as one of the most dangerous occupations, yet only 31% of farmworkers have health insurance. 

Current proposals in Congress to increase the minimum wage would benefit farmworkers, helping to lift them out of poverty. The proposals in the House and Senate would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016 and would subsequently increase the minimum wage yearly to keep up with inflation. This increase would make all the difference for someone like Ray, a 60-year-old farmworker from Florida, who says that the wages where he was picking potatoes in North Carolina are just too low. Ray said that he is willing to take any course and do any job, so long as he can make $10.00 an hour. Ray describes farm work as hard work, saying “I’ve got love for any farmworkers, they earn everything that they make – Spanish, Black, or White.”

In addition to fair wages, farmworkers deserve equal protection under the law. Like other workers in equally demanding jobs, they should receive overtime pay, workers’ compensation insurance, and have the right to organize and collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions.

Healthy Food Begins with Healthy Workers

Agricultural work is one of the most hazardous occupations in the U.S. Farmworkers suffer poor health outcomes due to their living and working conditions. Among the most common health issues in farmworker communities are diabetes, hypertension, musculoskeletal injuries, pesticide poisoning, and depression. Unfortunately, few farmworkers have health insurance. According to the most recent National Agricultural Workers Survey, only 31% of farmworkers have some form of health insurance. For those who get injured or fall ill on the job, only a handful of states requires farmworkers to be covered by workers’ compensation coverage to the same extent as other workers. Access to affordable and culturally appropriate healthcare for our nation’s farmworkers is crucial to ensure a just and sustainable food system.

Migrant and community health centers across the country provide primary healthcare services to farmworkers and their families. Anyone, whether or not they carry health insurance, can receive medical care. No one is turned away. Farmworkers are not only the health center’s patients; they are also active members of the health center’s governing boards, ensuring that the health center is responsive to the needs of the community. Through mobile units, outreach workers, and promotores de salud (community health workers), migrant health centers provide health education and medical care where farmworkers work and live. 

In 2012, I had the opportunity to join outreach staff at a health center in western North Carolina. We drove to trailers nearby and arrived just as the farmworkers were returning home. The trailers were dilapidated and housed multiple people. One trailer we visited housed 10 men. This was not the first time the outreach staff had visited these workers. We were warmly received as the outreach staff provided information about physical and mental health. They spoke with the farmworkers about pesticide safety, sexual health, and their general well-being. Many had visited the health center and were familiar with the services offered, though a few learned about it for the first time during our visit. It was clear that the outreach staff had gained the workers’ trust. 

My experience in North Carolina is not unique. In fact, migrant and community health centers are at the forefront of outreach and the establishment of a patient centered medical home. Yet despite their best efforts, health centers are underutilized by farmworker communities. Recent health center data tells us that only about 20% of farmworkers and their families visited a health center in 2012. Barriers to healthcare are numerous, including but not limited to unavailability of sick leave, affordability, fear of employer retaliation, and lack of knowledge about the health center or the U.S. health care system. We can help break down these barriers. Through community partnerships and education, we can empower farmworkers to engage in their local health center. After all, healthy farmworkers contribute to a healthy, sustainable food system.

Family Separation in America’s Fields

Every day at the crack of dawn, farmworkers leave their homes to endure long difficult days cultivating and harvesting the food we all enjoy. Like undocumented workers across the country, many farmworkers leave their homes in fear—fear that they may not return home that night to their children.

Recently, Farmworker Justice had the opportunity to speak with farmworkers about their lives and work. When asked “how does immigration impact your life,” the farmworkers shared stories of painful separations from their family members due to deportation. Because the majority of farmworkers are undocumented, the broken immigration system and the cost of harsh immigration enforcement is omnipresent and impacts every facet of farmworkers’ lives. Farmworker families face a variety of challenges in their working conditions, such as low wage rates, and pesticide exposure, but the constant fear of being deported weighs heavily on farmworker communities. One farmworker, Lupita, explained how difficult this omnipresent fear of separation is for children and the toll this wears on parents, when sometimes they do not have the words to reassure their children. Like other workers, farmworkers deserve the right to live and work without fear. Immigration reform must be passed to fix the broken immigration system.

Lupita shared her personal story with tears in her eyes. Her husband had recently been detained after a routine traffic stop and she was left alone with her five children. She tried to get him released but he was transferred to a detention center so quickly that she did not have the chance to even say good bye to him. She didn’t know how to tell her children about what had happened and told them that their father had gone to visit his grandmother because she was sick. But the news had spread around the community and another child told her kids that their father was in jail. The children came home in a panic, crying, and she tried to explain the situation to them. But the children were too young to really understand and were distraught at the thought of their father in jail. They refused to eat and were distracted at school. Lupita herself was suffering from anxiety to such an extent that she was afraid to take a shower because she feared an immigration raid. 

Lupita’s children were not handling the separation well and Lupita was desperate to help her children. She found a distant relative that was willing to drive the children to Texas to visit their father in the detention center. The children came back from the trip less upset with their father’s detention but still fearful of police officers. 

Now Lupita is scared to drive for fear that she too will be stopped and detained. She has been unable to drive her son, who has Down’s syndrome, to his occupational and speech therapy appointments. And her long hours in the fields and the lengthy hour-and-a-half bus ride make alternative transportation unworkable. Lupita spoke with emotion as she told me “My heart hurts to think that my son will be less developed because I can’t get in the car and drive him to therapy. What happens if I get deported, who will take care of my child with Down’s syndrome.”

Sadly, Lupita’s story is not unusual. As the Obama Administration approaches its 2 millionth deportation, families across the country are being torn apart with a devastating impact on the lives of the families, children, and communities. The separation of families must stop. Congress must act now to enact immigration reform. Last summer, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill which included a roadmap to citizenship as well as an agricultural stakeholder agreement to address the dire situation for farmworkers and agricultural employers. Now the House must do its part by passing immigration reform legislation that includes the agricultural stakeholder agreement and a path to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring citizens, including farmworkers and their families. The time is now. For its part, the Obama Administration must take action to end the devastation of its deportation and enforcement policies on families, workers and communities across the country. For up to date information about immigration, click here!

A Case for Medical Monitoring for Pesticide Handlers

Among farmworkers, pesticide handlers are most at risk of developing long-term health effects associated with pesticide exposure on the job . These workers are tasked with mixing, loading, and applying pesticides to crops. Long-term exposure to pesticides containing organophosphates and carbamates has been found to depress cholinesterase levels in farmworkers . Cholinesterase is an enzyme found in the blood which is necessary for proper functioning of the nervous system. Without it, nerves in muscles are unable to turn off, causing twitching and trembling, difficulty breathing, convulsions, and even death in severe cases characterized by continued daily absorption.

The EPA’s Worker Protection Standard, which contains the regulations that protect U.S. farmworkers from pesticide exposure, requires that pesticide handlers receive specialized training on top of the safety training required for all farmworkers. However, this training often fails to produce the safe environment necessary to protect them from harmful exposures. This failure may result when training is not provided or from poor quality training. Exposures also occur when appropriate respiratory and personal protective equipment is not made easily accessible or when the pesticide handler is placed under time constraints. Furthermore, inadequate training increases exposures among other farmworkers in the fields and of children and other family members when contaminated clothing, shoes, and bags are carried home.

Compared to farmworkers, workers in other industries that use harmful substances, like asbestos and radioactive elements, are protected by stronger training requirements and exposure monitoring. Pesticide handlers deserve this level of protection, as well. Several states have implemented medical monitoring programs for pesticide handlers that may serve as models for a national program. Since 1974, California has required medical monitoring of all agricultural workers who regularly handle an organophosphate or carbamate pesticides. The state of Washington began testing blood levels of cholinesterase in pesticide handlers in 2004 and, since then, has temporarily removed 79 pesticide handlers from the job when their cholinesterase levels were detected to drop. Blood testing has also made it possible to identify how the handlers are becoming exposed and to address common deficiencies around pesticide application on farms. This kind of medical monitoring is another form of education and data collection that is pro-active in nature. It is designed not only to detect problems in individuals before they get worse, but also will help to prevent over exposures for other pesticide applicators and field workers.

Now is the time to act in support of stronger regulations that protect farmworkers. For the first time in twenty years, the EPA has proposed major revisions to the Worker Protection Standard and is accepting public comments on its proposal until June 17. Medical monitoring of pesticide handlers is just one of several improvements to farmworker safety that a strengthened Worker Protection Standard could implement. 

The EPA needs to hear from workers, health professionals and other worker advocates about the need to bring protections for farmworkers up to the same level as those afforded to workers in other dangerous industries. Contact Farmworker Justice or visit our website for more information about the newly proposed Worker Protection Standard and how to participate in public commenting to advocate for a safer workplace for farmworkers. 

Shedding Light on Black and African American Farmworkers

February is Black History Month and today, 7 February is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). In light of these events, Farmworker Justice would like to bring attention to the Black and African American farmworkers who harvest our crops on a daily basis. When people think of farmworkers, they most often think of Mexicans or Latinos. And while the majority of farmworkers are indeed Mexican, a small percentage of farmworkers are Black or African American. As most of us in the farmworker community have come to realize, up-to-date data on farmworkers is difficult to come by. However, the National Agricultural Worker Survey from 2001-2002 found that 4% of those interviewed self-identified as Black or African American (out of 6,472 workers interviewed). More recent data from the US State Department shows that in 2012 the government issued 65,345 H-2A visas to foreign workers and 1,135 were from an African country and 58 were from Haiti (the only Caribbean country that had H-2A workers). Although Black/African American farmworkers are a small percentage of the larger farmworker population, they do make up a larger portion in certain regions like Florida or other eastern states.

Unfortunately, neither US nor foreign-born Black/African American farmworkers have escaped mistreatment and abuse at the hands of their employers. Before sugar cane was mechanized, many Jamaican farmworkers came over to work in the sugar cane fields and were often cheated out of wages or gravely mistreated (see “In the Kingdom of Big Sugar” by Marie Brenner). More recently Farmworker Justice and Florida Legal Services reached a settlement in a case against a Florida potato farmer that was charged with labor trafficking violations for employing homeless, drug-addicted men from the streets of Jacksonville, FL. The majority of workers in this case were African American.

When we talk about HIV and farmworkers, we also tend to supplement the scarce farmworker data available with data on HIV among Latinos. However, on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Farmworker Justice would like to shine a light on the HIV/AIDS rates in the Black/African American community in the United States as a reminder that not all farmworkers are Latino. A study done over 20 years ago in 1988 found a very high HIV/AIDS rate among farmworkers in Belle Glade, FL. This is one of the few studies done on HIV in the farmworker community where the majority of participants were Black/African American. However, it is impossible to make any assumptions about current rates of HIV in Black/African American farmworkers based on a study done over two decades ago in the early years of the HIV epidemic.

However, we do know that African Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States. African Americans represent approximately 12% of the US populations but account for almost 44% of all new HIV infections. The CDC reports that 1 in 16 African American men and 1 in 32 African American women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. There are many reasons why African Americans are at such high risk of HIV infection including poverty, discrimination, stigma, limited access to high-quality health care, homelessness, fear, lack of education on HIV/AIDS, and negative perceptions of HIV testing, to name a few. All of these reasons are also issues that farmworkers deal with on a daily basis too.

So, what can we do?

The theme for this year’s NBHAAD is “I Am My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS” which means that we all need to be part of the solution to the HIV epidemic. Being part of the solution means getting tested for HIV regularly, getting educated on HIV/AIDS, becoming involved by raising awareness and fighting stigma, and getting treated if you are HIV positive.

For more information:
“In the Kingdom of Big Sugar” by Marie Brenner
Farmworker Justice Press Release: Florida Potato Grower Charged With Labor Trafficking Agrees to Settlement Agreement with Farmworkers Comes After Accusations that Grower and Contractor Preyed on Vulnerable Homeless Men
Castro KG, et al. Transmission of HIV in Belle-Glade, Florida - Lessons for Other Communities in the United-States. Science 239(4836):193-197, 1988.
HIV Among African Americans Fact Sheet
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
 

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