“It's a forced separation […] and we've got used to this kind of life”: changing dynamics of HIV risk in the context of immigration

Yanqiu Rachel Zhou (Associate Professor in the School of Social Work and Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)
William D. Coleman (Professor at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, Canada and in the Department of Political Science, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada)

International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1747-9894

Publication date: 21 February 2011



This paper aims to examine the impacts of immigration processes on the HIV risk faced by mainland Chinese immigrants in Canada.


Drawn from a larger qualitative study on the vulnerability to HIV of recent immigrants to Canada, the data presented were collected through individual, face‐to‐face, semi‐structured, in‐depth interviews with 34 mainland‐Chinese immigrant adults who perceived themselves as facing sexual health risks (including HIV infection) through engaging in unsafe sex.


Immigration processes have not only exposed these immigrants to a HIV risk that they did not face in China; they have also compromised their capacity to effectively respond to it. In light of various settlement difficulties, HIV risk is neither the only nor the most urgent challenge that they have faced in their post‐immigration lives.

Research limitations/implications

The HIV risk under discussion must be understood by situating it in the processes of immigration, settlement, and transnational connections, all of which have shaped not only the dynamics of HIV risk but, also, these individuals' capacities to respond to that risk. Owing to its small‐size purposive sample, the results of this study may not be generalizable for Chinese immigrants in Canada as a whole.

Practical implications

Greater attention should be given to the intersections between immigrants' vulnerability to HIV and settlement processes and to holistic approaches that take into account the changing contexts and dynamics of HIV risk.


This exploratory study will contribute to knowledge of the HIV risk Chinese immigrants in Canada face – a little‐known topic.



Rachel Zhou, Y. and Coleman, W. (2011), "“It's a forced separation […] and we've got used to this kind of life”: changing dynamics of HIV risk in the context of immigration", International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 5-15. https://doi.org/10.1108/17479891111176269

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