A new study based on in-depth interviews of rural Latino men in western Oregon finds that these men need sexual health services designed for their needs, including more male health providers, more convenient clinic hours, and Spanish-speaking doctors.
Researchers at Oregon State University conducted interviews with young Latino men from rural backgrounds and asked them questions related to sexual health and use of sexual health services. The results are published in the March issue of the American Journal of Men's Health.
Marie Harvey, the study's lead author, and associate dean of research in OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences, has studied women's reproductive health issues for more than 25 years. Recently, she has focused on the role of partners in sexual and reproductive health, or what she likes to call the "it takes two to tango" angle.
"We put women in the awkward position of trying to convince their partners to be active participants in pregnancy prevention and contraceptive planning," Harvey said. "Increasingly, I think it's crucial to talk to men and engage them on these issues."
Latinos in the United State experience disproportionately high rates of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS. These sexual health disparities have the potential to grow as Latinos continue to be the largest and fastest growing minority in the United States.
Harvey's research team interviewed 49 Latino men who have immigrated to the United States within the last 10 years. The average age was 24. The majority of the men came from rural areas of Mexico. More than half had never seen a health care provider, and 88 percent had never seen a provider specifically for sexual and reproductive health services.
Harvey said this research is important because the men not only gave reasons why they did, or did not, utilize sexual health services, but they gave context linked to their cultural background, beliefs, and experiences. Almost half of the men reported they never discussed sexual and reproductive health topics with their parents. As one man explained, "Unfortunately, we come from a country that, I don't know, they never want to talk about that. They keep it quiet and one grows up ignorant about that subject."
"Almost every man we talked with stated they didn't have enough information or knowledge about how to prevent unintended pregnancies and STIs," Harvey said. "But they very clearly stated that they wanted this information and would like to be better informed."
Many of the men suggested making informational pamphlets about sexual health services and clinics available in places they frequent, such as local laundromats or Latino grocery stores, as well as airing public service announcements on Latino radio or television stations. Men also emphasized the importance of providing information in Spanish.
In addition, terminology sometimes was confusing. In the United States, the term "family planning" is often used, but many of these single men said they had no need for such a service since they weren't planning to have a family right now.