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Migrant workers’ greater HIV risk

Cambodian females migrating to Thailand for work are more than three times as likely to contract HIV/AIDS than women working in the Kingdom, a National AIDS Authority survey has revealed.

Kao Try, deputy chairman of the NAA, yesterday opened a five-day workshop in the capital with government officials and NGOs from across the Greater Mekong sub-region to identify weaknesses in existing reproductive health legislation, policies and services for female migrant workers in the region.

Migrant workers, and particularly those escorted to Thailand, Try said, faced a much higher risk of becoming infected with HIV/AIDS because many were channelled into sex industry work where they faced rape, and where contraception and safe sex was not encouraged.

A government survey, conducted in 2011, uncovered that the rate of HIV/AIDS among Cambodian female migrant workers in Thailand was 2.5 per cent, while the rate of females aged 15-49 with the auto-immune disorder in Cambodia dropped to 0.7 per cent.

Meanwhile, 1.3 per cent of Thai females in the same age bracket were infected with HIV/AIDS.

According to a Ministry of Women’s Affairs report on migrant workers, 36,580 Cambodians migrated to Thailand for work over the past four years.

“These women migrate abroad to get a better income, but they have to think of their health. Many of them end up being sexually exploited and raped,” Try said.

Ya Navuth, executive director at Coordination of Action Research on Aids and Mobility, said it was critical for sub-Mekong countries to discuss policy and legislation gaps, “specifically for female migrants’ sexual and reproductive health, and to combat HIV/AIDS”.

Promboon Phanithphakdy, head of the women’s health NGO the Rak Thai Foundation, said that services for migrant workers were “completely lacking”.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sen David at



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