by Jennifer Succi, Program Coordinator
Autumn marks the transition from summer to winter in New England, and at first sight of changing leaves in bright red, orange, yellow and purple hues, many New Englanders are transported to thoughts of sipping warm apple cider, carving pumpkins and finding their way through corn mazes.
Connecticut is home to over 4,900 farms whose primary agricultural commodities include sweet corn, apples, tobacco, dairy and greenhouse nurseries. While these farms are the hub of many New England fall traditions, they are also the source of livelihood for the estimated 20,183 migrant and seasonal agricultural workers in Connecticut.
It is not a surprise that Migrant and Seasonal farm workers, a largely disenfranchised group within the United States, experience an increased risk for HIV. To paint a picture, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Hispanic/Latino population accounted for 21% of new HIV infections in 2010, and represented almost 30% of new HIV infections within Connecticut.
Several of Connecticut’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) outreach to local farms to connect Migrant and Seasonal farm workers and their families with resources offered through the health centers, such as SNAP benefits screening, and help them to overcome any barriers or underlying fears that might impede their access to health care.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014 marked National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, which encouraged community action. The theme, To End AIDS, Commit to Act, implored everyone to make a commitment to know the facts about HIV, get tested for HIV, and get into and stay in medical care if they have HIV.
On Wednesday, CHCACT tagged along with an Outreach Worker from Generations Family Health Center, to three Windham County farms. During these visits, the Generations Outreach Worker provided farm workers with supplies bags (handkerchiefs, sunglasses and sunscreen) and CHCACT program staff distributed English- and Spanish-language safer sex kits during the farm workers’ lunch time.
At each site, services pamphlets and resources were spread across a lunch table for workers to explore as they entered their lunch building. Many of the farm workers were primarily Spanish speaking, and would ask Generations Outreach Worker questions about the safer sex supplies, which were deferred to CHCACT program staff. Some of the workers requested that Generations Outreach Worker deliver the safer-sex kit to them privately, hesitant of their peers’ judgment.
On Wednesday, CHCACT and Generations Outreach Worker reached almost 50 Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers with supplies and encouraged them to learn their HIV status.
As you carve your pumpkins and prepare your apple pies, remember the Connecticut migrant farmworkers who are helping to bring those products to your home. And see if you can help improve their access to health care.