Source AP ©

Asia's migrant workers need more state help to curb AIDS

Millions of migrant workers in Asia who lack sufficient access to health services are threatened be spread of AIDS, regional activists say.

"For a comprehensive approach to contain HIV/AIDS, the health of not only local populations but also migrant communities needs to be addressed," CARAM Asia, a Malaysian-based coalition of migrant and health groups from 15 countries, said in an open letter to Asian governments late Monday.

There are now about 53 million migrant workers in Asia who are vulnerable to HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, because of their relative lack of access to HIV-prevention programs, health counseling and medical tests, CARAM Asia said.

In many cases, migrants found to be HIV-positive are deported without any help or immediate treatment, it added. It did not give estimates of how many migrant workers in Asia are HIV-positive.

Many migrant workers come from poor areas in countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They often find employment in more affluent Asian nations as housemaids and laborers in plantations, factories and construction sites.

According to recent U.N. statistics, about 8.6 million people in Asia are infected with HIV. About 500,000 people in the region die per year from AIDS and financial losses are estimated at US$10 billion (EUR7.5 billion) annually.

However, investment in HIV control in Asia remains extremely low at 10 percent of the required US$5 billion (EUR3.7 billion) per year, officials have said. The number of people in Asia infected with HIV could more than double to 20 million in the next five years without a better government response and more funding, they said.