IRC Warns of Increased HIV/AIDS Risk Among Displaced Populations
As the largest-ever global AIDS conference opens in Bangkok this week, t he IRC is calling for increased high-quality healthcare and better availability of antiretroviral drugs to displaced populations. The IRC also urges governments hosting refugees and other uprooted communities to allow unhindered access to these often marginalized populations, including those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
“The special needs of refugees and internally displaced have been neglected in the debate surrounding HIV/AIDS,” says Susan Purdin, the IRC's senior technical advisor for reproductive health who is participating in the conference.
“Like all sexually transmitted infections the virus spreads faster when communities are in crisis, and the disease has taken a significant toll on refugees and internally displaced persons fleeing armed conflict. War-affected people face increased vulnerability to HIV transmission because of the rise in sexual violence, the need to sell sex in exchange for food or money, the increased use of illicit drugs, and unsafe blood transfusion at a time of greater need,” Purdin says.
HIV transmission and migration will be on the agenda for the first time when some 20,000 world leaders, scientists, activists and people living with HIV/AIDS meet for the 15th International Aids Conference July 11-16.
“This is a big step; the IRC and other organizations have worked hard to see a discussion, previously ignored, about the specific risks that refugees and displaced people face in terms of living with AIDS or becoming infected,” Purdin says.
The IRC is participating in a conference booth entitled Aids and Mobility where delegates will be able to learn more about this critical issue. The IRC will also make available copies of its field manual, “Protecting the Future.” It is the first publication designed specifically for health workers developing comprehensive HIV-programs among displaced and war-affected populations.
The IRC is part of the Consortium on Aids and Mobility, a group of non-governmental organizations, United Nations agencies and academic institutions that are rallying around the specific problems surrounding HIV/AIDS and populations that migrate.
Health care is the IRC's largest assistance sector, with programs in over 20 countries and territories throughout Africa , Asia and Europe . The IRC's HIV/AIDS-related assistance includes medical and psycho-social care for HIV/AIDS sufferers and the distribution of antiretroviral drugs , awareness-raising campaigns, distribution of condoms and blood screening programs ensuring safe blood transfusions.