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Study, Conference Highlight Risks Associated With Migrant Workers' Limited Access to Health Services

March 5, 2010

Despite being at high-risk for HIV infection, migrant workers in Southern Africa have a challenging time accessing HIV prevention and treatment services, according to a new study by the International Office of Migration (IOM), PANA/Afrique en ligne reports.

"Conducted in eight countries -- Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia -- over a five-month period from July to November 2009, the assessment focused primarily on labour migrants employed in the agriculture, mining, transport, construction, informal cross border trade and the maritime sectors," the news service writes. The research was commissioned by USAID and received funding from PEPFAR, according to the news service.

To reduce the vulnerability of migrant populations to HIV/AIDS, the report calls for global efforts to improve migrants access to public health services and for governments to "introduce comprehensive HIV/AIDS policies that cover the specific vulnerabilities faced by migrants, in particular access to healthcare at their work place and in their home countries," the news service writes (3/3).

The topic of migrant health is the focus of a three-day meeting that kicked off Wednesday in Madrid, the U.N. News Centre reports. "The Madrid Consultation aims to address these challenges and to overcome obstacles such as the ability to generate comparable global data on the health of migrants and to identify policies and legislation that advance their health," according to the U.N. News Centre.

"According to WHO, many factors limit migrants' access to health services, including stigma, discrimination, social exclusion, language and cultural differences, separation from family and socio-cultural norms, and financial and administrative hurdles," the U.N. News Centre writes.

"The right to health applies to all migrants, irrespective of their migratory status," said Davide Mosca, director of the Migration Health Department at IOM. "We therefore need to define minimum standards of access to health care based on fundamental human rights and sound public health policies and practices. This requires strong partnerships across sectors and between countries where migrants leave from, transit through or are received," said Mosca (3/3).

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