Live Life Positively: Let Migrants Know Their HIV Status
Switzerland – On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2018 (1/12), IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reflects on the accessibility of HIV testing for migrant populations.
Migration does not automatically mean HIV vulnerability, and not all migrants are at increased risk for HIV. However, in many contexts migrants are exposed to a unique set of socio-cultural, economic and environmental factors that increase their vulnerability to HIV. For example, migrants often face marginalization, exclusion and various barriers to accessing health care – putting them at a higher risk for HIV infection.
As mentioned in the 2018 UNAIDS Report Knowledge is Power: “migrants have specific legal and administrative impediments to accessing HIV testing and other services (particularly where they are undocumented and, as a result, are not entitled to health care), and they face cultural and linguistic barriers, racism and xenophobia that serve to restrict access. They also have a higher frequency of delayed HIV diagnosis than people among the general population.”
Around the world, IOM works with governments , national and international partners to deliver rights-based programmes that decrease HIV vulnerability and risk among migrants by ensuring equal access to HIV prevention, care, treatment and support, and countering misinformation and stigmatization surrounding migration and HIV.
For instance, IOM offers counselling and voluntary HIV testing for refugees and migrants being resettled to over 15 host countries during pre-departure health assessments. In 2018 to date, IOM provided over 70,000 voluntary HIV tests, including pre- and post-test counselling, in more than 50 IOM operations worldwide. Where necessary, IOM provides referrals for follow-up care to local or national health systems.
Jacqueline Weekers, Director, Migration Health Division said: “In order to achieve the 90-90-90 targets by 2020, all countries need to accelerate their HIV testing and treatment programmes, and this can’t be done without the inclusion of migrant populations in order to reach the goal of leaving no one behind.”
All HIV testing needs to be voluntary, confidential and with counseling support. If positive, all persons regardless of their nationality or migration status should have access to adequate high-quality healthcare, treatment and support. IOM urges governments and partners to move the Universal Health Coverage Agenda forward, revise policies related to restrictions on entry-based on HIV status and develop migrant-friendly policies, adapted towards inclusive health systems and stigma free societies.
As mentioned by Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, “HIV testing gives people the knowledge they need to make choices—choices on the right options for treatment and prevention. Knowledge really is power. The power of people to determine the right options to keep healthy. And the power to stay well and live long and productive lives. Let’s ensure that everyone has that power.”
On this World AIDS Day, IOM encourages voluntary HIV testing to empower migrant populations, ensuring healthy migrants in healthy communities.