Female Migrants From Asia at an Increased Risk of HIV, U.N. Report Says
Female migrants from Asia have become "highly vulnerable" to HIV during the global financial crisis, according to a United Nations Development Programme report released in Manila, the Philippines, on Tuesday, AFP/Nasdaq.com reports. According to the report, the economic crisis has resulted in widespread job cuts and the "situation of migrant workers is under threat." It added, "When demand for labor wanes, those in the weakest bargaining position, usually temporary migrant workers and particularly the undocumented, will accept almost any conditions to hold on to their jobs."
Between 70% and 80% of migrant workers from Sri Lanka and the Philippines to Arab states are women, and 60% of female migrants from Bangladesh were employed in the region between 1991 and 2007, according to the report. It added that these women now face harsh conditions. Many are heavily indebted when they leave their home countries, and others experience sexual abuse by their employers or are kidnapped by human traffickers. "Conditions are expected to become harsher for even the employed migrant workers as they try to hang on to their jobs," UNDP country representative Renaud Meyer said, adding that undocumented workers are among the most vulnerable and might "accept almost any circumstances to hold on to their jobs." Meyer said, "Worst still, during the present turmoil, desperation for work may lead to migration under unsafe conditions, sexual exploitation and increased vulnerability to HIV infections" (AFP/Nasdaq.com, 3/10).
Prasada Rao, regional director for UNAIDS, said that although "migration itself is not a risk factor to HIV infection, the conditions under which some workers migrate and their living conditions in the host countries make them highly vulnerable to HIV." Ajay Chhibber, UNDP regional director for Asia and the Pacific, said that migrants found to be HIV-positive often face deportation and that they are unable to find work and experience discrimination once they return to their home countries (AP/MSNBC.com, 3/10).
According to AFP/Nasdaq.com, although some countries require HIV/AIDS education for migrants prior to departure, many workers do not receive such education. For example, 96% of Bangladeshi domestic workers in the Middle East said that they did not receive HIV/AIDS orientation before departure. "While half of them have heard of HIV through the media or from co-workers, none had in-depth knowledge of HIV prevention" and safer-sex methods, the report said, adding that the combination of recruitment fees and low wages can force female migrants into "debt traps, which in turn, could lead to sexual exploitation." In addition, workers who "flee abusive working conditions are immediately rendered illegal by host countries, exposing them to greater risk of abuse, including sexual exploitation and increased vulnerability to HIV," the study said. It was based on more than 600 interviews with migrant workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, which supply workers to countries such as Bahrain, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (AFP/Nasdaq.com, 3/10).
The report is available online.