Survey Finds Farm Workers Vulnerable to HIV, Particularly Women
An HIV prevalence survey among 10 farms in the Hoedspruit area of
the Limpopo Province in South Africa has found that farm workers
are highly vulnerable to HIV.
The survey, commissioned by IOM and partner Hoedspruit Training
Trust (HTT), found that of the 1,500 farm workers who voluntarily
participated, 28.5 per cent were living with HIV. A gender
breakdown of figures found that female workers not only had a
higher HIV prevalence rate of 32.5 per cent compared to 20.9 per
cent of male workers, but that those between 18-24 years of age
were particularly vulnerable to infection as they were three times
more likely to have HIV than their male counterparts.
The survey was carried out to have a better understanding of
specific HIV vulnerabilities within the commercial agriculture
sector in South Africa. It is typically characterised by small- or
medium-sized farms employing both permanent and seasonal farm
workers from surrounding areas in South Africa and from
neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Its findings revealed a serious epidemic among this farming
community, which is consistent with South Africa's Department of
Health 2006 HIV prevalence data for the local district (24.8 per
cent) as well as the prevalence in the province of 29.6 per cent
for those between 30-34 years of age.
Not only were HIV infection rates higher among women farm
workers, but the survey found that mobility increased their
vulnerability to infection. Women who travel more than one hour to
work are much more likely to have HIV than their male counterparts
with more women than men having to travel such distances.
Dr. Clive Evian, who conducted the survey, stressed the need to
strengthen the current HIV testing, care and support services as
other findings revealed that 60 per cent of all employees and 53
per cent of HIV-positive employees were not aware of their HIV
status. Worryingly, 25 per cent of HIV-positive employees who knew
their HIV status said they did not use condoms.
The findings of the survey will provide employers, policy makers
as well as employees with a more accurate understanding of the
epidemic in the agricultural sector and will thus assist in better
programme design as well as monitoring.
Through its Partnership on Mobility and HIV in Southern Africa
(PHAMSA) programme funded by the Swedish development agency (Sida),
IOM has been working since 2004 to reduce HIV incidence and the
impact of AIDS among migrant and mobile workers and their
The survey, part of the PHAMSA programme, has "highlighted the
need for HIV programmes to target not only individual risk
behaviour but also other factors that increase HIV vulnerability
such as gender, mobility and living conditions," according to
Barbara Rijks, IOM Regional HIV/AIDS Coordinator for Southern
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