Few migrants who cross borders in search of work have access to health services, including HIV and AIDS treatment and support, said a new report launched on Tuesday by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
India is one of the largest "sending" nations in Asia, with an emigration rate of 0.8%. Of these, 72% work in other Asian countries. India also has the second largest diaspora in the world, estimated at 25 million. In some parts of India, three out of four households include a migrant, says the report.
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the number of Indian students abroad tripled from 51,000 in 1999 to over 153,000 in 2007, ranking India second after China among the world’s largest sending countries for tertiary students.
The report, HIV/AIDS and Mobility in South Asia, offers analysis and suggestions to address HIV and migration trends in seven nations of the Asian sub-region, home to 2-3.5 million of the 33.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.
"Protecting and promoting the right to health of migrants including access to HIV services is vital for safe mobility," said Clifton Cortez, from UNDP’s Asia Pacific Regional Centre.
India had 2.39 million (23.95 lakh) people living with HIV at the end of 2009, up from 2.27 million (22.7 lakh) in 2008. Adult prevalence also rose from 0.29% in 2008 to 0.31% in 2009.
Each year, 200 million migrations take place within India, which has prompted the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to provide information on HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases to migrants.
"NACO has identified 200 districts from where the bulk of migrants travel. We’ve started services at the source, destination and transit points in work in 20 districts, which will be stepped up over the next few months," said K Chandramouli, director general, NACO.
Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP director in India, said: "While migration itself is not considered a vulnerability factor for HIV infections, the unsafe conditions under which people migrate exposes them to a greater risk..."