HIV Prevention and Treatment Not Accessible to Southern Africa’s Migrant Workers

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
USAID Press Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The International Organization of Migration (IOM) has released the results of an eight-country 2009 survey into the health risks and needs of migrants and mobile populations. The survey was commissioned by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and funded by the Southern Africa Prevention Initiative of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

The assessment researched migrants employed in the agriculture, mining, transport, construction, informal cross border trade and maritime sectors. Conducted over a five-month period, July to November 2009, the study identified several factors that increase HIV vulnerability of migrant workers, mobile populations and the communities with whom they interact. Main factors include:

  • Boredom and loneliness resulting from long periods of time spent away from home and family
  • Poor social environments in which alcohol and sex are the most accessible forms of entertainment
  • Multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships, including commercial and transactional sex
  • Low HIV knowledge and inconsistent condom use
  • Limited access to HIV prevention services
  • Low availability of social and behaviour change communication programmes

The report recommends several ways to help reduce the HIV vulnerability of migrant workers and mobile populations. These include: the need to look at migrants within a public health context and develop programs for migrants and the communities with which they interact or “spaces of vulnerability” (such as truck stops and border areas); the need for further research to examine sexual behavior patterns within the migration process; and the need for governments to introduce comprehensive HIV/AIDS policies that cover the specific vulnerabilities faced by migrants - in particular, access to healthcare at their work places and in their home countries.

USAID’s Southern Africa Mission Director, Mr. Jeff Borns, said, “USAID supported this valuable research to find out how susceptible the migrant workers are to HIV and AIDS, and to gain valuable guidance for those seeking to address the needs of such a vulnerable and underserved group. The findings of this assessment will assist USAID in forming a regional strategy for addressing HIV prevention within migrant settings.”

IOM is implementing a number of HIV prevention interventions for migrant populations regionally, including the USAID supported Ripfumelo (“believe” in the xiTsonga language) project that reaches out to 20,000 migrant farm workers and their families on 120 farms across South Africa’s Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces. USAID has previously sponsored IOM’s research into human trafficking across South Africa.

The assessment was conducted in Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia. The complete report, Regional Assessment on HIV-prevention needs of Migrant and Mobile Populations in Southern Africa, can be downloaded from:

For further information, please contact Nosipho Theyise on +2712 342 2789,

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Last updated: May 17, 2012

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