Track F report by Skhumbuzo Maphumulo
HIV positive migrants are often denied access to health care services. This has increased their vulnerability to HIV. Often they are deported without proper referrals. No resources are afforded to them despite the fact that they make significant contributions to the economies of the receiving countries.
Some of the barriers to healthcare faced by migrants include language, absence of legal and social support in detention, lack of information on the part of migrants themselves, discrimination and stigma, lack of employment opportunities in their home countries following deportations, costs of medical treatment where it is not provided for free, lack or depletion of savings and high costs of living. It was noted that undocumented migrants account for a large proportion of treatment failures.
There are HIV related travel restrictions in many countries where HIV testing is mandatory. This has the effect of driving the epidemic underground. It further limits the right to life as migrants are deported without guaranteed treatment in their home countries. Emphasis was placed on the need to fight against HIV screening which is designed to exclude or stigmatise.
There are actions that have been taken in a number of communities in response to the problems faced by migrant workers. These include advocacy at both national and regional levels. There are also campaigns to have existing travel restrictions removed. These efforts have been replicated in South East Asia. There is a realisation that capacity building is an effective solution because it will create awareness to migrants, thus empowering them to assert their rights. It is also important to have migrants involved in all programs that affect their lives. Further, it was recommended that migrants should be integrated into the health insurance system. Comprehensive and sustainable re-integration programmes for returning HIV positive migrants are a necessity as well. The formation and support of HIV positive migrants’ support groups was also recommended. All such measures should be pursued at regional and global levels.