HIV and Human Mobility

Social disruption caused by migration, unsafe living conditions, discrimination in accessing social services and a lack of social capital can increase migrants’ exposure to diseases such as HIV and can lead to late diagnosis, poor treatment-seeking behavior, treatment default and potential for transmission to others. Persistent stigma and discrimination towards migrants and HIV, including legislation enforcing mandatory testing and restrictions on movement of people living with HIV continues to increase HIV vulnerability among migrants.

Challenges in addressing HIV vulnerabilities among migrants and mobile populations include lack of migrant-specific data to inform decision-making, continued stigma and discriminatory attitudes towards migrants including limited access to services based on legal and/or HIV status, lack of recognition of migrants in national AIDS strategies, and inadequate comprehensive services reaching mobile populations. 

Read more on IOM's Factsheet on HIV/AIDS and Population Mobility

IOM Programmes on HIV/AIDS

Global, regional and national HIV projects are among the largest of IOM's activities in health promotion and assistance to migrants and mobile populations.

Within the global AIDS response, migrants are often identified as a "key population" for HIV prevention activities.  From one country to another, the term "migrant" may be used to discuss diverse populations, such as immigrants from a specific country or ethnic minority that is particularly visible, emigrants in a specific sector of overseas work, or mobile workers constantly on the move.  Any HIV policy or programme targeting migrants overall does not go far enough, and may contribute to stigma. Migration does not equal HIV vulnerability, and not all migrants and mobile populations are at increased risk to HIV due to their mobility.  Policy-makers must "unpack" this relationship in order to target interventions to those migrants and mobile populations who do face increased risk of HIV infection. At the same time, efforts must be made to reduce barriers to health services, for the benefit of migrants and their communities.

Over the last decade, IOM has implemented HIV-related projects in partnership with governments, international organizations and civil society around the world. Among the beneficiaries of IOM HIV projects are regular and irregular migrant workers across a range of sectors (including transport, mines, maritime, and infrastructure); mobile populations in crisis settings including internally displaced persons and refugees; families and partners of migrants (including sex workers); as well as victims of sexual and gender-based violence and trafficking in persons.

IOM addresses HIV risks and vulnerabilities at all phases of migration.  HIV prevention and research are key activities.  IOM also provides direct HIV services to migrants in selected sites, including voluntary HIV testing and counseling for migrants and their communities, and treatment services including anti-retroviral therapy.  IOM works closely with policy-makers on a range of issues related to HIV and population mobility, including access to health services; regional and cross-border cooperation; and discriminatory legislation and practices, such as mandatory HIV testing.