Switzerland – Migrants are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS in high-income countries, says IOM as it marks World AIDS Day.
This year’s UNAIDS Report on the global AIDS epidemic demonstrates that for the first time in the history of AIDS, an end to the epidemic is on the horizon and the rates of new infections in traditionally high-burden countries are going down.
But many challenges remain. For example, in high-income countries in North America and Europe, the total number of people living with HIV has actually increased in the last ten years.
Migrants and mobile populations are at particularly high risk of HIV infection all over the world, as they frequently face marginalization, exclusion and various barriers to accessing health promotion and care.
In addition, there is also a lack of awareness of migrants’ vulnerability to HIV in high-income countries, where migrants – especially those originating from high endemic countries – are disproportionally affected by HIV compared to the general population.
For example, in Canada, the estimated infection rate of migrants from HIV-endemic countries is 8.5 times higher than among other Canadians (2008).
In the US, the foreign-born population represents 13 per cent of the total population, but 16.2 per cent of new infections (2007-2010).
On average in the European Union (EU) / European Economic Area (EEA), over one-third of all HIV infections acquired through heterosexual transmission are among people who migrated to the region from a country with a generalized HIV epidemic.
Contrary to popular belief, migrants often get infected after their arrival in countries of destination. They frequently do not know their HIV status and tend to get diagnosed with the virus at a much later stage than the general population. This is usually caused by stigma, lack of knowledge, marginalization and precarious immigration status.
To address some of these challenges and reach out to migrants affected by HIV/AIDS in the diaspora, IOM works in close partnership with the African and Black Diaspora Global Network on HIV/AIDS (ABDGN), which was established in 2006.
This Toronto-based “network of networks” aims to strengthen the response to existing and emerging HIV/AIDS epidemics and associated stigmas and discrimination among African, Black and Caribbean populations in the diaspora, including migrants and refugee populations. This week, during the 101st session of the IOM Council, the ABDGN joined IOM as an Observer.
“Many of the migrants we support are not medically literate and often do not understand what the doctors tell them or are too afraid to ask any questions. Without the availability and accessibility of migrant-sensitive HIV prevention, treatment and care, we will not reach the objective of “Zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths” – the theme of World AIDS Day,” says ABDGN’s Wangari Tharao.
“The plight of migrants living with HIV is of grave concern. Many are confronted with a double stigma of being a migrant and living with HIV. States urgently need to integrate human rights and the needs of migrants and mobile populations into their HIV responses, and to ensure universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, as outlined in the 2008 World Health Assembly Resolution on the Health of Migrants,” says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.
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