In recent years, an increasing number of Bangladeshi men have been working overseas. Whilst working abroad, some migrants engage in unprotected sexual activities, making them vulnerable to different kinds of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Upon return home, the wives of these migrant workers are also highly susceptible to contracting HIV/AIDS. This study explores how and what the wives of the migrant workers perceive as practices of health safety regarding HIV/AIDS. In this connection, the Health Belief Model (HBM) was used as a theoretical lens for this study. Data were collected (from January to March, 2017) in two phases by using a mixed-method approach. In the first phase, a structured questionnaire survey was conducted among the purposively selected 122 wives of migrant workers from Chauddagram Upazila (sub-district) of Cumilla (previously known as Comilla) district, Bangladesh. The survey data were processed, computed, and analysed through SPSS software (version 19). For the second phase, nine wives of migrant workers were purposively selected for an in-depth interview to grasp more detailed qualitative understanding of this experience. The in-depth interviews were transcribed and analysed thematically. The findings demonstrate many misperceptions about the transmission of HIV/AIDS, including through casual social contact. Stigmatising views were also common, for example, 24% of the participants opined that HIV transmits via hugging, sharing clothes, and sweat of the person living with HIV. In addition, the overwhelming majority of the participants (69%) believed that the HIV/AIDS affected person should be treated by being placed in quarantine. Moreover, 91% of the participants did not intend to suggest their husbands for HIV screening upon their return due to fear of being divorced, shyness, social stigma, and lack of feeling risk (to be infected by HIV) although 25% of them felt that there could be a risk of being infected by HIV due to sexual contact with their returned husbands. Education level, the role of the media, husbands’ long duration of staying abroad, and access to information were found to be significantly associated with the components of HIV awareness (such as hearing and sharing about HIV/AIDS, knowledge on how it spreads, and feeling of risk) among the wives of the migrant workers in bivariate analyses. These findings highlight unequal gender relations, women’s lack of empowerment, men’s hegemonic masculine power, and overall misconceptions about HIV/AIDS transmission are the key components in creating migrant workers’ wives’ vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.

Author Biography

Humayun Kabir (Corresponding Author), PhD Student, School of Health, University of New England, Armidale, NSW-2351 Australia, & Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh. Email: humayun_sociology03@du.ac.bd, hkabir@myune.edu.au.

Syadani Riyad Fatema, PhD Student, School of Health, University of New England, Armidale, NSW-2351 Australia, & Lecturer of Sociology, Noakhali Science and Technology University, Bangladesh). Email: sriyadfa@myune.edu.au.

Saiful Hoque, PhD Student, School of Media and Communication, Korea University, SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, & Assistant Professor of Mass Communication and Journalism, University of Dhaka, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh. Email: saifulmcj@korea.ac.kr.

Mst. Jesmin Ara, Senior Assistant Secretary (Chief), Ministry of Planning, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Dhaka, Bangladesh). Email: mara@myune.edu.au.

Myfanwy Maple (PhD), Professor, School of Health, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia. Email: mmaple2@une.edu.au.