The United Nations has developed a new policy on the needs and rights of migrant workers regarding HIV/AIDS, irrespective of their legal status, given their special risks and vulnerabilities to the disease.
The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that there are 86 million international labour migrants around the world. They contribute in significant ways to their families and countries of origin by sending money back home, as well as to their countries of destination through their participation in the local economy and society.
At the same time, the isolation and stress associated with being away from their families and communities can lead them to engage in risky behaviour which increases their exposure to HIV, such as unsafe commercial sex.
Migrant workers who acquire HIV in transit or destination countries, or who are already living with the virus, often do not have access to HIV and health services.
To address these needs, UNAIDS, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), developed a policy that contains guidance and recommendations for national authorities.
According to UNAIDS, more than 100 countries restrict people living with HIV from entering or remaining in a country. In addition, migrants can be refused entry or face deportation if they are found to be HIV positive.
Among other things, the new policy urges countries to remove such restrictions and make services available to migrants, while stressing that migrants – regardless of their status – should have the same rights to health as nationals.