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HIV prevalence high among migrant workers in Thailand

HIV prevalence high among migrant workers in Thailand

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An HIV positive woman receives treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh last November. Photograph: Reuters

Cambodian migrants have the highest rate of HIV among migrant groups in Thailand for reasons that range from the nature of their jobs to cultural attitudes towards condoms, Thai health workers said yesterday.

The results of the recent Integrated Bio Behavioural Survey by Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health shows Cambodian migrant workers have an HIV prevalence rate of 2.5 per cent, the highest of any migrant population in the country.

Thailand’s estimated adult prevalence is 1.3 per cent, and Cambodia’s is 0.5 per cent.

Raks Thai Foundation program assistant Domrongphol Sangnanee said the results were “not surprising”.

“Many Cambodian migrant workers work in the fishery sector, and it’s quite difficult to access workers to educate them,” Domrongphol said.

“In the case of Laos [migrants], they don’t work in fisheries, and it’s easy for them to access material on HIV because the languages are similar.”

Another reason was Cambodian migrants’ unfamiliarity with condom usage, he said.

Other factors promoting high rates of HIV among migrant workers in general included language barriers to understanding HIV information and inability to use government health service providers.

Concerns over communicable diseases among Cambodian migrant workers were not high, however, and the Public Health Ministry was more worried about tuberculosis among the large percentage of Burmese workers in Thailand.

Registered migrant workers had to undergo annual health checks and buy health insurance, Domrongphol said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cassandra Yeap at [email protected]