Picture of IOM Tajikistan HIV outreach to migrants.
Lack of cross border cooperation between sending and receiving countries is making migrants with HIV more vulnerable, the International Organization for Migration claimed at a major regional dialogue on HIV and Migration run online yesterday from the Tajik capital Dushanbe.
Lack of access to services can also lead to increased stigma and discrimination of HIV positive migrants across the vast Central Asian region, yesterday’s (12/11) event was told.
“While the exact number of migrants vulnerable to HIV is still unknown, the testimony of people facing access to antiretroviral treatment must be heard,” said Rukhshona Qurbonova, IOM’s regional HIV expert.
Advocating for migrants’ rights to health means mobilizing decision makers, donors, civil society, academia, migrant communities and diaspora to flag the issue of the lack of universal access to health care, and for unbroken antiretroviral treatment, she noted.
The World Health Organization, along with UNAIDS and IOM, has developed a guide entitled “Essential HIV care package for migrants in Central Asia”. It guides countries on the minimum services needed to ensure universal access to HIV services for all, including HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care.
“IOM jointly with the Tajik health authorities, WHO and the NGO AFEW International are reviewing how existing policy addresses the needs of vulnerable migrants, and how to improve migrants’ access to HIV services”, said Cristina Gheorghe Tranca, the Chief of Mission at IOM Tajikistan.
The regional dialogue resulted in recommendations to address the challenges raised and extend best practices developed by policy makers and frontline organizations.
“Parviz” had been working in the Russian Federation for four years without a residence permit, when his health deteriorated. A medical check in a private clinic revealed HIV. Due to his irregular status, Parviz was afraid to go to state health facilities, and he did not have money to afford treatment at a private clinic. Left without any option, he searched for a doctor on the internet. Following online consultations, he started his antiretroviral therapy and spent more than half of his savings on treatment. His health deteriorated and he called emergency services, ending up in hospital where he was put in contact with a Russian NGO, who facilitated his treatment. He’s feeling better, but he is still afraid that authorities will find him and ask him to leave the country because of his HIV positive status.
“Mehri” learned that she was HIV positive when she underwent a routine medical check during her pregnancy in the Russian Federation. Her boyfriend left her as soon as she informed him about the baby. Now she suffers from double stigma, being a migrant and a single pregnant woman. She cannot go back home, because flights are prohibitively expensive due to current COVID-19 restrictions. Moreover, she is afraid to reveal her situation to parents and relatives. Fortunately, Mehri’s friends found a Russian HIV NGO, where she receives consultation and treatment. But due to the lack of work opportunities, Mehri cannot afford housing and needs financial support.