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Economic Crisis in Southeast Asia Could Lead to Unsafe Migration Patterns, Increase Risk of HIV/AIDS, Officials Say

February 20, 2009

During a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Bangkok, Thailand, last week, officials discussed how the global economic crisis could affect migrant workers and the spread of HIV in the region, Thailand's The Nation reports. The meeting included a discussion among officials from member countries' Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health and Labor; United Nations agencies; the ASEAN secretariat; and other organizations. Officials said that the economic downturn could affect the lives of migrant workers as the number of such workers returning to the region might increase as the number of people who have lost their jobs overseas increases. In addition, people who have recently lost jobs in Southeast Asia could move overseas in search of work.

According to officials, these new migration patterns could prompt countries to take precautionary stances, which likely will result in fewer formal migration options, a decrease in job opportunities, harsher conditions and discrimination. This in turn could result in unsafe migration and might increase workers' vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, The Nation reports. Officials made recommendations to safeguard migrant workers' right to health services, especially HIV services, throughout the migration process, including ensuring that HIV testing among migrants follows international standards of informed consent, confidentiality and counseling. Officials also noted the need for effective methods of reintegration of workers, including proper referral for HIV services. The 14th ASEAN Summit in Hua Hin, Thailand, from Feb. 27 to March 1 will include a report of recommendations made at the meeting (The Nation, 2/19).

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