By Associated Press

Unsafe work conditions, sexual exploitation among risk factors

MANILA, Philippines — Asian women working in Arab states are "highly vulnerable" to HIV infection and the problem may worsen amid the global financial crisis, according to a U.N. report released Tuesday, March 10.

Female migrants from Asia often travel and work under unsafe conditions and are targets of sexual exploitation and violence, said the U.N. Development Program report released in the Philippine capital Manila.

Illegal and excessive fees charged by recruiting agents push migrant workers into debt traps that can lead to sexual exploitation, which heightens their vulnerability to HIV, it said.

"Although migration itself is not a risk factor to HIV infection, the conditions under which some workers migrate and their living conditions in the host countries make them highly vulnerable to HIV," said JVR Prasada Rao, regional director of UNAIDS in Asia and the Pacific.

Because of significant financial benefits, Arab states are the primary destination for many female migrant workers from Asia, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, it said.

Ajay Chhibber, UNDP’s regional director for Asia and the Pacific, said migrants found to be HIV positive risk deportation, and once they return home are unable to find work and face discrimination and social isolation.

The report, "HIV Vulnerabilities of Migrant Women: from Asia to the Arab States," was based on about 600 interviews in four Asian countries and three in the Arab states. It focuses on the social, economic and health toll that migration imposes on women, particularly low-skilled workers who are lured by job prospects.

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