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Perhaps the most prominently clashing border in the world is where the world’s super power lays beside a depressed country. The United States and Mexico has formed a very unique border culture where opposites must live together. The border stretching nearly two thousand miles is increasing in growth causing the already prevalent problems of drought, unemployment, pollution and peso devaluation only to engrave themselves deeper into Mexican culture. Now sexually transmitted diseases have added to the complicated web along the border. Sexually transmitted diseases are a threat that faces women of any ethnicity. Even with the increasing number of the various forms of contraception, venereal diseases are still abundant. In the United States, awareness programs implemented in schools and health clinics have produced an increase in having protected sex and therefore a decrease in sexually transmitted diseases. The success has been phenomenal and it has been proven that education is the key for a healthier population. Unfortunately, Mexico has taken nearly the opposite effect. Faced with economic depression, Mexican women are battling teen pregnancy, venereal diseases and HIV infection at an alarmingly higher rate than the U.S. Mexican women have a lack of resources to help them understand the diseases, sexual awareness programs are scarce and ignorance is to blame. Ultimately, it narrows on two causes: the fact that Mexico is poverty-stricken and the cultural beliefs concerning condom use and family planning.
The epitome of the American super power versus Mexican’s depressant state is the formation of the maquiladoras in Mexico. Maquiladoras are “American owned plants that depend on the nimble fingers for rapid assembly of parts that are shipped back to the U.S. (Carnegie Corporation 2)." Parts such as toys, sunglasses, garage door openers are assembled daily. It is advantageous for the U.S. because tiny, cumbersome, tedious work is accomplished by cheap labor. It can be argued that it is advantageous for Mexico as well in the sense that it provides thousands of jobs, but women in the maquilas are sexually harassed, depressed and taken advantaged of. While this report does not focus on the maquiladoras, their behavior must be examined because it is these factories that define and represent the border.
Generally, maquila workers have less education, averaging a total of 7.3 schooling years, a low income, averaging $1.
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When analyzing the rate of sexual diseases among American born Hispanics and Mexican born Hispanics, their sexual counterparts must be examined as well. Concerning a study of young males in three ethnic groups; white, black and Hispanic, it gathered that Hispanic males have not changed in their sexual behavior whereas whites and blacks have significantly lowered the incidence of sexual diseases (Gunn 29). This helps in understanding the high rate of venereal diseases among Hispanic women but it definitely does not help the situation. Hispanic males are less likely to voluntarily seek medical advice on an infection and if they do, it is usually when the disease has advanced dramatically. One of the causes for the high incidence of sexual infections is that they are more inclined to have a greater number of different sexual partners than Whites (Darrow 448). Another is the absence of education. Males are simply unaware. But it is not only an educational issue. The affluent Unites States economy has the ability to provide resources, while Mexico frankly cannot. There is not any money allotted to provide for education. It can only be concluded that Hispanic males procrastinate seeking medical advice because they cannot afford to. They are not only costly visits, but there is lack of accessibility to the facilities.
There is an interesting scenario that arises in one of the border cities, Nogales, Arizona. Where do these residents go for medical treatment? Do they travel north to a United States clinic or do they travel south? For residents living along and around the border, it has become common knowledge that non-narcotic drugs that are available only by prescription in the United States can be purchased over the counter in Mexico at a much lower price (Carnegie Corporation 9). Not only are these antibiotics and medicinal cures cheaper, so are the medical examinations. Unfortunately the medical attention is often inadequate because of the lack of technology available. The United States by far is further advanced in medical technology and has the ability to provide health services that are absent in Mexico. But these visits are pricey. Because of the low socioeconomic stage most Hispanics do not call for medical attention when their own methods have failed. By this stage, it would be fruitless to go to a Mexican clinic where inadequate care is offered. However, Hispanics are more likely to go to a Mexican clinic only because it is cheaper. More than 76% of mothers were receiving early prenatal care, but they were seeking it through services offered in Mexico (Carnegie Corporation 10). Money is too precious to sacrifice, even in the face of health.
It was not until January of 1973 did the Mexican government implement family planning services in hospitals, clinics and health centers when it was brought to their attention that such services would benefit the Mexican society. A study conducted between December of 1970 and February of 1971 brought appalling statistics. A clinic sample was compared to a city sample establishing that 89% of the clinic sample used some form of contraception when they last had intercourse whereas only 35% of the city sample did (Keep 306). When asking the city sample what type of contraception was used, a majority replied with the most ineffective method of protection; the calendar rhythm and withdrawal. The city sample was rather ignorant in the various contraceptions available therefore it explains for their choice of such an ineffective form. This void of knowledge also pertains to the importance of family planning. The clinic sample of course was more inclined to approve of a family planning program because they were aware of the benefits. Interestingly, in both samples, approval was the greatest among women who had left high school at a higher age and/or came from a higher socioeconomic upbringing. This directly relates to the hazardous stage of the women working in the maquiladoras. Because they are financially depressed and have such few years of schooling, they also fall into the city sample of ignorance. These examples support that education is a dire necessity. But this lack of education is mirrored by a lack of funding as well.
We, in the United States cannot apply our definitions, values and beliefs into an entirely different country and make conclusions. There is a largely significant culture gap between Americans and Mexicans. Hispanics place a huge emphasis on large families and they are encouraged starting at a very young age. Therefore, teenage pregnancies are common and abortions are rare. Beliefs concerning condom usage have also affected family planning. These two elements have greatly contributed to the rapidly growing population along the border and directly increasing the frequency of venereal diseases. Hispanics believe that condoms are only for prostitutes or otherwise unclean people. They also feel that they are uncomfortable, inconvenient and reduce sensation. Although Hispanics believe that condoms provide protection, they also believe that they will break thereby no longer providing that protection. There is also a high belief that condoms prevent the HIV infection causing AIDS (Norris 374, 377). The results to this research are surreal, no Hispanics reported to using a condom consistently in a twelve month period and that sexually active Hispanic females reported to thinking about using a condom only 50% of the time. This is compared to other gender ethnic groups who think about using a condom 94-100% of the time. Another depressing fact concludes that although there is high use of condoms, it is not consistent (Norris 379 – 380). There are many that have used them but only for the first time. This is extremely ineffective in reducing the rate of venereal diseases.
American born Hispanics and Mexican born Hispanics have the lowest rate of early sexual contact but the highest rate of early births because once they are pregnant, they are least likely to choose abortion. Non-Hispanic whites are just the reverse (Aneshensal 959). Hence, the potential risk of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV are much higher for Mexican Americans. In fact, there is a higher percentage of Hispanic males that carry the HIV virus than non-Hispanic males. These Hispanic males are participating in sexual intercourse with women only spreading the disease even further thereby infecting them and only adding to the problem. Data from the 1979 World Fertility Survey states that sexually active Hispanic women between the ages of 15-19, only 7% used a form of contraception. Another frightening aspect is that 75% felt that they lacked information about sex and reproduction and they were unaware of where to go for reliable information (Townsend 103). Consequently, Prosuperacion Familiar Neolones (PSFN) became convinced that sex education was vital and they set about to launch different programs to educate. Before even establishing facts concerning sexually transmitted diseases, validity, confidentiality and reputation needs to be established. Changing cultural views so condom use is more common and trying to veer away from calendar rhythm and withdrawal are going to be very difficult. Influencing such a large population is not easy.
One strategy is a Community Youth Program that uses young volunteers to provide sex education in schools. Another is to provide services free of charge, such as all contraceptives, psychological counseling and courses on personal hygiene. Besides these that relate to sexual intercourse, the program also offers academic tutoring, recreational activities and courses in martial arts and cooking. PSFN’s goal is to make it a safe and fun place to be where answers are provided. Since there is a factor that not everyone attends schools, street discussions are assembled. However, 95% of the audience in these street groups were male because it is considered inappropriate for adolescent women to join these groups (Townsend 106). So the desired target market is not reached. The study resolved in stating that there needs to be more research in finding the most effective way to reach the largest audience. But these programs are revolutionary and are only the beginning of a safer and healthier Mexican society.
The United States and Mexico border must be looked at as an entirely different culture within the two countries. This “border culture” is very delicate and fragile. A woman participating in AIDS prevention said, “We’re influenced by the U.S. We have goals. We say, ‘I want this, I’m certain I can do that.’ We are passionate. We want to study, to work, to know life – to try to taste it (Carnegie Corporation 3)!" This statement is very bold and tells us that Mexico is trying to mirror our habits, they look to us as their role model, their utopia. Ironically, we are not nearly providing the aid needed. It is extremely difficult to examine the health situation in a third world country as Mexico when it lays beside the United States. Because of its geographical location, it has an unfair advantage because it looks so poor when compared to the power of the U.S. The United States should be proud of their technological achievement and lend a helping hand. The health conditions along the border and in the maquiladoras are extremely poor. It is apparent that programs need to be implemented along the border, programs that are adapted to their own culture. Awareness of sexual infections, cures and preventions will unfortunately not solve, but will greatly reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. The Mexican government needs to open their voices and seek funding. Unfortunately, without proper finances, success is too far down the road. A bridge needs to be built to the poor, uneducated women and teenagers, and improvement of border health should provide an integration of the two countries. Hopefully, with careful analyzation and fruitful educational programs Mexico will experience a healthier society in the next millenium.
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