IOM Highlights Migrants’ Access to HIV Services at XIX International AIDS Conference

Posted on Fri, Jul-20-2012
Despite political commitments at the highest level to address the health and HIV vulnerabilities of migrants and mobile populations, they continue to lack adequate access to HIV services in most countries. This is a worrying public health omission requiring urgent redress in a world increasingly dependent on human mobility, says IOM, as the XIX International AIDS Conference opens in Washington D.C. this weekend.

"Migrants have demonstrated time and again their positive contribution to the development of societies and economies.  Their exclusion from health services and policies is not only a denial of the basic human right to health, but also a misguided pandering to public fears and perceptions of migrants as a burden on social services," says IOM Director General Ambassador William Lacy Swing. 

"It is now time for countries to be bold, to take action, and uphold a tenet they ascribe to – the right to health for all,” he adds.

Related Links
IOM Participation at the XIX International AIDS Conference
Flyer, Satellite Session on TB and HIV
Flyer, Bridging Session on Migration and HIV

During the week-long conference, IOM will participate in a number of high visibility events where it will share best practices to address the specific HIV vulnerabilities affecting migrants and mobile populations.

The first event hosted by IOM with the Canadian Public Health Agency (PHAC), the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Responses to HIV and Migration in Western Industrialized Countries: Current Challenges, Promising Practices, Future Directions, will take place on Sunday 22nd July.

It will examine the challenges related to monitoring HIV in migrant populations and providing migrant-sensitive HIV programmes and services in North America and Europe.

“Discussions at this initial satellite event will explore promising practices and opportunities to collaborate and strengthen responses to migration- related HIV challenges in western industrialized countries.  Participants will present examples how the 2008 World Health Assembly Resolution on the Health of Migrants is being implemented in Europe and North America,” says Barbara Rijks, Migration Health Programme Coordinator at IOM’s Migration Health Division.

Even though HIV prevalence rates are generally low in western industrialized countries, certain foreign-born populations may be especially vulnerable to HIV infection and transmission. 

In the United States, foreign born people are less likely to have health insurance and therefore may lack access to regular health care, including HIV care.

In Canada, the estimated new infection rate among individuals born in HIV-endemic countries is about 8.5 times higher than among other Canadians.  Many are unaware of their HIV infection, indicating that this population is not accessing HIV testing.

In both North America and Europe, evidence suggests that many migrants from endemic countries contract HIV after arriving in the country of destination. 

“These findings have important implications for the programmatic response to HIV in countries where HIV in migrant populations accounts for a substantial proportion of newly diagnosed HIV infections, and may require countries to divert their spending to those prevention strategies that are likely to have the most effect on curbing the epidemic,” adds Rijks.

The second satellite session, Digging for Solutions: Implementation of the Declaration on Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV in the Mining Sector in Southern Africa, organized by IOM’s Regional Office in South Africa, in partnership with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), and WHO’s Stop TB Partnership, will feature one current and one former African Minister of Health, a former mine worker living with Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) TB, and representatives from the private sector and development partners.

The event, which will take place on Tuesday 24 July, will present an overview of the challenges and opportunities brought about by a forthcoming SADC Declaration on TB in the mining sector. In South Africa alone, over one third of the mine workers come from neighbouring countries, with the majority from Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland.

Mine workers in Southern Africa, especially those working in gold mines, have some of the highest rates of TB in the world, which is caused by high levels of HIV-infection, crowded living conditions and exposure to silica dust. TB rates can be three times higher among workers with silicosis.
In addition, people living with HIV are 20-30 times more likely to develop TB than those without HIV. Many mining companies conduct their own prevalence surveys on a regular basis. These show high levels of HIV prevalence amongst their workers. For example, in South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti estimated HIV prevalence among employees at 30% and in 2008, Goldfields estimated it at 33.5 per cent.
“The issue is regional.  The mining industry in South Africa is heavily dependent on migrant workers from neighbouring countries.  Men travelling to work in the mines are at the greatest risk of getting TB, but their families back home are also at risk when miners travel back and forth to work,” explains Erick Ventura, IOM’s Regional Migration Health Coordinator for Southern Africa.

For more information please contact

Niurka Pineiro
IOM Washington D.C.
Tel: + 1 202 862 1826 Ext. 225