Immigration Legal Services as a Structural HIV Intervention for Latinx Sexual and Gender Minorities


Lack of legal immigration status is associated with poor HIV-related outcomes for immigrant Latinx sexual and gender minorities (LSGM). LSGM often meet eligibility criteria for legal immigration relief. A Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) may thus be strategic to improve their health. We know little about the challenges LSGM face during the immigration legal process. We conducted in-depth interviews with six key informants and sixteen LSGM who recently applied for immigration legal relief. We coded and analyzed the data for emergent themes. Challenges to instituting an MLP for LSGM included lack of specialized training on working with SGM for immigration attorneys, and for clients: knowledge about legal deadlines, lack of housing and family support, and re-traumatizing experiences. Clients’ outcomes were positive when attorneys and mental health providers collaborated. For LSGM, the benefits of immigration relief included reduced HIV risk. An MLP that addresses the surmountable challenges could improve HIV-related outcomes among LSGM.

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This research was made possible by a CFAR Adelante award funded by the National Institutes of Health-funded Centers for AIDS Research (P30AI050409 and P30AI117970) and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The project was also supported by the District of Columbia Center for AIDS Research, an NIH funded program (AI117970), and a Dean’s Summer Research Award from American University’s School of International Service. We thank Sarah Palazzolo for research support and the UCLA Emerging Immigration Scholars Conference for feedback during the beginning stage of the project. We are tremendously grateful to our resilient study participants who generously gave their time and shared their moving stories.

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Correspondence to Thespina J. Yamanis.

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Yamanis, T.J., Zea, M.C., Ramé Montiel, A.K. et al. Immigration Legal Services as a Structural HIV Intervention for Latinx Sexual and Gender Minorities. J Immigrant Minority Health 21, 1365–1372 (2019).

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  • Legal immigration status
  • Undocumented
  • Structural intervention
  • Medical legal
  • Partnership
  • HIV
  • LGBT
  • Transgender
  • MSM