Migrants Left Behind in AIDS Prevention, IOM Tells Asia-Pacific Leaders
Thailand - IOM has called on Asia-Pacific governments to improve access to HIV services for migrants during a major gathering on HIV/AIDS in Bangkok. IOM Regional Director Andy Bruce told delegates that migrants were “a key demographic that is being left behind” in the fight against the virus.
Speaking at the UNESCAP-hosted Asia-Pacific Intergovernmental Meeting on HIV and AIDS, which closes today (30/1) in Bangkok, Bruce noted the progress which has been made in the region, but stressed the “urgent imperative” for this to reach migrants, particularly in cities across the vast region, which accounts for half of all the world’s international migrants.
“Despite the fact that migrants remain a high risk category, they face obstacles in accessing essential healthcare services due to language barriers, lack of migrant inclusive health policies, lack of awareness of the availability of services, and when they are irregular, their legal status,” he said. “This in turn can have negative consequences on their well-being and that of their communities, and undermine the realization of global health goals including HIV prevention, care and support.”
In the lead-up to the discussions on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, IOM is calling on governments to ensure that all people, regardless of their status, be given access to health services and HIV programmes, including HIV prevention education, counselling and testing, and treatment and support services.
Reaffirming IOM’s commitment to work with all its Member States and development partners, Bruce urged states to refocus on the UN’s 2011 Political Declaration on AIDS and Development, which specifically calls for access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for migrant and mobile populations.
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A recent UNAIDS report on HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific showed that despite a 26 per cent reduction in new HIV infections since 2001 and significantly increased domestic financing for AIDS, the epidemic still outpaces the response and half of people eligible for antiretroviral treatment in the region are not accessing it. There are growing epidemics in some geographical areas, particularly in cities and within key populations at higher risk, notably among men who have sex with men, in many countries. Not enough people from key populations at higher risk know their HIV status, which is hampering increased access to treatment. Despite some progress and legislative change in some countries, most countries in the region have laws, policies and practices that drive stigma and discrimination and hamper access to HIV services.