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Population mobility and HIV and AIDS: review of laws, policies and treaties between Bangladesh, Nepal and India

Working papers

Written by Fiona Samuels

People move for many reasons, and factors that drive mobility often stem from unequal distribution of resources, climatic instability, conflict and political unrest. Movements have often been conceptualised as being driven by push or pull factors or a combination of the two. Many are pushed out of a country or a region by political instability, violence and natural disasters, and pulled towards other regions and countries with stronger economies and better opportunities.

Mobility is not a new phenomenon in South Asia and national, regional and international mobility continues to grow. In particular, the demand from India’s growing economy has pulled populations from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Cultural affinities between these countries also allow easier cross-border mobility.

Studies reveal that migrants are disadvantaged relative to the native population in terms of employment, education and health. While their contributions are often key to the survival of families and communities back home, those who move and those who remain face many vulnerabilities.

While mobility itself is not considered a vulnerability factor for HIV infection, the unsafe conditions under which people migrate exposes them to a greater risk of infection.

In response, CARE UK, in collaboration with CARE offices in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, has established a regional operation research programme, which aims to reduce vulnerability to HIV and AIDS amongst migrants moving between Bangladesh and India and between Nepal and India. EMPHASIS (Enhancing Mobile Population’s Access to HIV & AIDS Services, Information and Support) works through local and international partners to provide interventions and carry out research at source, transit and destination sites.

This Background Note provides a short overview of the HIV situation in each country, followed by a review of the individual country legal frameworks and an outline of regional initiatives around migration and HIV. The Background Note concludes by discussing priorities and processes that could safeguard the health and rights of migrants and their families.

Fiona Samuels and Sanju Wagle