HIV/AIDS support services in South Asia largely absent: UN

November 30th, 2010 - 3:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 30 (IANS) HIV/AIDS support services and treatment for migrants in South Asia, including India, are largely absent and need to be stepped up, a UNDP report released here Tuesday said a day ahead of World AIDS Day.

The report, ‘HIV/AIDS and Mobility in South Asia’, offers analysis and recommendations to address current HIV and migration trends in seven countries of the Asian sub-region which is home to 2 to 3.5 million of the estimated 33.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP country director in India, said: “While migration itself is not considered a vulnerability factor for HIV infections, the unsafe conditions under which people migrate exposes them to a greater risk of infection.”

The report said that the region’s HIV epidemic is concentrated among vulnerable groups such as injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and sex workers and their clients. Several million migrant male workers are at risk of infection as they tend to buy sex when they are away from home, it added.

Trafficking of women and children from the northeast and neighbouring countries in India is a serious issue that needs to be tackled, it said.

In Bangladesh, 67 percent of identified HIV positive cases are returned migrant workers and their spouses. In Nepal, 2007 statistics showed that 41 percent of reported HIV cases were among migrant workers. More than 40 percent of Sri Lankan women who have tested positive, abroad and at home, are or have been international migrants, the report said.

Countries that send migrants out, such as Bangladesh, India and Nepal, have clear national policies against mandatory HIV testing. In Sri Lanka, mandatory medical testing for departing migrant workers is approved by the government. In the Maldives, HIV screening is required for all jobseekers and all workers who spend more than a year outside the country.

Calling for a strong support system for reintegration of migrants, the report said: “HIV-positive returnees often prefer to hide their deported status, as well as their HIV status, for fear of exclusion and humiliation.”

Among the report’s recommendations are safe mobility and migration under international labour standards and conventions, non-discrimination and protection against abuse and other human rights violations, minimum wage and gender equity, improved access to HIV services, counselling and legal aid and protection from deportation on grounds of HIV positive status.

While the report takes a strong stand against mandatory HIV testing, it says that the test maybe done for migrants with their consent. Confidentiality of the person however must be respected and pre and post counselling should be done.

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