Pinay migrant workers face high risk of HIV infection

Published by rudy Date posted on March 12, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Filipina overseas workers employed in the Arab region face a high risk of being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which causes AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, a study conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said.

The UN study is based on interviews conducted by the UNDP in August 2007 with 600 women migrant workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka who are working in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Lebanon.

The UNDP conducted discussions and interviews with 93 Filipina migrant workers: 38 in the Philippines, 21 in Bah­rain, 18 in Dubai and 16 in Lebanon.

Of the 38 women interviewed in the Philippines, four were HIV-positive and had worked previously in the UAE.

While all migrant workers are required to attend a pre-departure orientation seminar, only 71 percent of the Filipina overseas workers who were interviewed, attended it with 54 percent remembered that it included an HIV orientation.

Of the migrant workers interviewed onsite or in the three Arab countries, 62 percent underwent a medical examination before departure but 82 percent of them were unsure if they were screened for HIV.

“Most medical testing facilities in the host countries (countries where the Filipina migrant workers were employed) are not cognizant of the pre- and post-test requirement of HIV testing or they view this as an added burden in the medical testing process,” the study said.

The study also revealed that while 84 percent of Filipina migrant workers in the Arab countries were aware that HIV is sexually transmitted and condom use could prevent its transmission, majority of the respondents admitted having engaged in unsafe sex.

Fifty-eight percent of the respondents had engaged in unsafe and risky sex with men who did odd jobs at the homes of their employers, such as electricians, drivers and gardeners.

“Although there are very limited data that point to the actual prevalence of HIV infection among Filipino domestic workers from Bahrain, Lebanon and the UAE, the findings of this study show that the vulnerability of these workers to HIV infection is real,” the study said.

The study urged the Department of Health to develop and enforce implementing guidelines for the proper conduct of HIV screening of OFWs, including pre- and post-test counseling.

It also recommended that Philippine embassies and consulates aboard to intensify HIV awareness by sponsoring regular HIV prevention activities for OFWs.     

“HIV-prevention education should be intensified. Since the pre-departure orientation seminar is clearly inadequate as an avenue for HIV awareness-raising, it should be supplemented by more information, education, and communication and behavior change communication materials in strategic locations where OFWs congregate like medical testing facilities, airports, recruitment agencies and training center,” the study said.- Mike Frialde, Philippine Star

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