U.S. Has Spent $1.39 Million on Study Surveying Married Tajik Migrant Workers in Moscow, and Interviewing Some of Them, Their Wives, Girlfriends and Prostitutes

September 24, 2010 - 4:05 AM

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Flag of Tajikistan.

(CNSNews.com) - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has spent $1.39 million over the last 3 years on a study that involves surveying a group of married Tajik migrant workers in Moscow, and interviewing some of them, their wives, girlfriends and prostitutes.

According to the description of the study on the NIH Web site, the research was developed in order to address “the major global health problem of HIV prevention amongst married male labor migrants in Central Asia and the public health risk for an AIDS epidemic in Tajikistan.”

“The study focuses on married men from Tajikistan working in Moscow and their risks for acquiring HIV through having sex with female sex workers and then transmitting the infection to their wives or female sexual partners,” the description said.

"The specific aims of this study," the NIH abstract for the grant says, "are: 1) To characterize how labor migration of married men under extreme conditions shapes masculine norms and schemas and HIV risk and preventive behaviors; 2) To characterize how women (wives, regular partners, sex workers) and their perceptions of HIV, femininity, and masculinity impact male migrants' HIV risk and preventive behaviors; 3) To assess the current and potential roles of the organizations involved with married male migrants in responding to HIV and in mitigating masculine norms impacting men's sexual behavior; 4) To build an empirically based model for preventing HIV amongst married male migrants that will help to develop programs and policies focused on heterosexual men and masculine norms.

In order to do this, according to the abstract, researchers would interview, among others, Tajik migrant workers in Moscow, their wives and "female partners" back in Tajikistan and "sex workers in Moscow."

"These aims will be accomplished." the abstract says, "by a survey of Tajik married male migrants in Moscow (n=400), ethnographic interviews and observations of the Tajik migrants in Moscow (n=40), their wives/regular female partners in Tajikistan (n=40) and Moscow (n=~30), sex workers in Moscow (n=30), and service providers (n=40) in organizations that are involved with migrants in Tajikistan and Moscow."

The study is being conducted by Dr. Stevan Merrill Weine, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The study, which is not scheduled to conclude until July of 2013, is being funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, a subdivision of the NIH. It received $479,394 in fiscal 2008, $450,102 in fiscal 2009, and $460,256 in fiscal 2010.

Weine did not grant CNSNews.com an interview.

The National Institutes of Health, however, did answer this question from CNSNews.com: “The Census Bureau says the median household income in the United States is $52,000. How would you explain to the average American mom and dad--who make $52,000 per year--that taxing them to pay for this grant was justified?”

In an e-mail statement, NIH said:

“The goal of such research is to understand the behaviors that contribute to increased health risks, as well as how these behaviors can be changed in real-world settings.”

The statement continued:

“In the case of HIV prevention, more than 20 million people worldwide have died from AIDS-related illnesses. Unsafe sex and substance abuse are contributing factors to contracting these diseases. Whether HIV research occurs in the United States or in an international setting, what we learn from these scientific studies often benefits Americans.”

According to the CIA factbook, as of 2007 only 0.3 percent of the 7 million people in Tajikistan--a predominantly Muslim nation in Cetral Asia near Afghanistan and Pakistan--had contracted HIV/AIDS, compared with 0.6 percent of the population of the United States. 

It is estimated that nearly 1 million Tajiks are labor migrants and nearly half of those migrants work in either Russia or Kazakhstan.