Human Trafficking and HIV/AIDS – Double Jeopardy

Human trafficking is defined as the illegal transportation of people from one country to another. The victims are, more often than not, young girls or women who have either been forcefully coerced or deceived by promises of a better life and/or income. While human trafficking is a global phenomenon, it is more widespread in the developing countries of Africa and Asia.

As if being the victim of human trafficking is not enough hell for the victims, they are finding themselves pushed into its furthest corner by simultaneously being exposed to the scourge of HIV/AIDS. This is because the harsh reality that awaits the women once they reach their destinations (or are abandoned midway there) is one that is filled with the savagery of sexual harassment, rape and being forced into either working long hours for little to no pay, or worse: slaving away in the commercial sex industry.

Many of the trafficked women end up in refugee camps. What should be a place of sanctuary usually opens the door to another level of misery. If they are not raped by men in or outside the camp, they fall victim to the same authorities that are supposed to protect them. While it is quite obvious that the exposure to HIV/AIDS is very high once they have reached their, albeit unintended destinations, it is not limited to just that one ordeal. The women are forced into submission and cooperation using violence that often includes the breaking of their spirits through beatings and rape – often resulting in unwanted pregnancies. The mother usually doesn’t know that she is infected with HIV/AIDS, at least not early enough, and it leads to a very high chance of the baby being born HIV positive due to mother-to-child transmission (MTCT).

One can only imagine the amount of suffering the mother and child have to endure, but that is nothing compared to the fact that they are in their misery all by themselves because there is very little chance of either of them getting any help in terms of medication or treatments to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). This is mainly because of three main reasons:

  1. While still at her destination, the pregnant woman cannot afford to get the treatment that she needs or isn’t informed of the services that she can get from organizations or health institutions that provide free care and medicines.
  2. If she is lucky enough to return home, shame and fear of stigmatization will make it almost impossible to admit that she or her child is HIV positive.
  3. If she happens to be in a refugee camp or some midwife facility, the services that are offered may be poor for several reasons. Most of these places are overwhelmed by the sheer number of refugees, too poor to have the facilities needed to deal with HIV/AIDS, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services are scarce and hard to get.

What makes this tale heartbreakingly sad is the fact that the subject of “Human Trafficking and HIV/AIDS” continues to remain widely unexplored and mostly ignored.

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