|Historic Multi-stakeholder Dialogue on HIV|
Bangkok 12 Feb 2009; A High Level Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on HIV Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support for Migrants in the ASEAN Region took place in Bangkok, Thailand. The dialogue was jointly organized by ASEAN Secretariat, Joint United Nations Initiatives on Mobility and HIV & AIDS in South East Asia (JUNIMA) and CARAM Asia (Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility).
The historical meeting brought together for the first time high level government officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health and Labour from the 10 ASEAN Member States, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and UN agencies, as well as the ASEAN Secretariat. The main focus of the discussion was strategic interventions required to safeguard the right to health of migrant workers, especially as it regards their access to HIV services throughout the migration cycle.
The meeting expressed concern about the dramatic impact that the global financial crisis may have on the lives of migrant workers in South East Asia. As the crisis unfolds, a two-way increase is expected in the movement of people: overseas migrants returning home after losing their jobs, or those recently laid off at home moving overseas in the hope of finding work.
As some countries may take increasingly protectionist stances, the options for formal migration will rapidly narrow. Migrants abroad may face increasingly difficult conditions, with fewer employment opportunities and may encounter greater discrimination and stigmatization. This will lead to more undocumented migrants, unsafe migration, and an increased possibility that migrants will find themselves in situations that either put them at risk or make them more vulnerable to HIV infection.
“The financial crisis and multi-billion dollars economic stimulus packages being put forward must not forget the faces and voices of migrants and mobile populations who are among the most vulnerable” said Ms Gwi-Yeop Son, the UN Resident Coordinator in Thailand and the convener of the joint UN initiative on migration and HIV & AIDS in the South East Asia in her welcome address.
Ensuring universal access to HIV services for migrants is a major challenge in the region. “The Ministry of Public Health in Thailand has recently initiated a health care system for migrants,” said Thailand’s Permanent Secretary for Public Health Dr. Prat Boonyawongvirot. “Registered migrants are able to utilize health care services from the existing services. However there are still major gaps in reaching undocumented migrants with HIV prevention, treatment and care interventions”.
“As ASEAN is moving from being state centric to a more people-oriented and caring society, the challenge is to convert the ASEAN declarations and commitments adopted by the ASEAN heads of state and governments into strategic actions that will make a difference in protecting the rights and health of migrant workers,” said Dr. Soeung Rathchavy, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN in her opening remarks.
The two day meeting produced a set of practical recommendations as follows:
1- Prioritise and align HIV policies and programmes with global standards and procedures and address the needs of migrants in origin and destination ASEAN countries by:
a. Ensuring that HIV testing of migrants adheres to international standards including informed Consent, Confidentiality and Counselling;
b. Putting into place necessary polices and regulations, including work place programs to ensure that migrant workers are protected and are not subjected to stigma and discrimination, and have equal access to information, HIV treatment care and support.
2- Strongly support and encourage governments to review and eliminate laws, policies and practices related to HIV –specific restrictions on entry, stay and residence; and ensure that people living with HIV are no longer excluded, detained or deported on the basis of HIV status.
3- Develop ASEAN standard protocols guided by Universal Access for a comprehensive Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support Program for migrant workers
4- Strengthen pre-departure and post arrival orientation for migrant workers by emphasizing and tailoring information about HIV risks and vulnerability as well as how to access health services.
5- Protect the rights and promote the well-being of migrants in host countries by involving relevant stakeholders including embassies from sending countries, ministries concerned and migrants in receiving countries.
6- Develop effective and holistic mechanisms for the return and reintegration of migrant workers including proper referral to HIV counselling and testing, treatment, care and support services.
7- Develop a comprehensive package to ensure Universal Access for migrants including the establishment of drop-in centres to provide information and referral to services for migrants.
8- Involve relevant stakeholders such as Foreign Affairs, Health, Labour, Interior and Social Welfare; Civil Society Organizations, private sector, migrant representatives and the United Nations Agencies and International Organizations as equal partners in addressing the needs of migrant workers and ensure that there is sustainable financial means to support their collaborative action that will ensure access to HIV and health services for migrants.
9- Convene regular High Level Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue to share lessons, best practices and evidence-informed prevention treatment, care and support policies for migrants and main stream the issues on HIV and migrants into the work of the relevant ASEAN bodies, such as ASEAN Task Force on AIDS (ATFOA), Senior Labour Officials Meeting (SLOM), ASEAN Committee on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Migrant Workers (ACMW).
10- The high Level Multi-stakeholder Dialogue proposed that the out puts and recommendations of this dialogue be submitted to relevant ASEAN bodies for consideration and follow-up and be conveyed by the Secretary-General of ASEAN to the ASEAN leaders who will meet at the upcoming 14th ASEAN Summit to be held from 27 February to 1 March 2009,in Hua Hin, Thailand.
The High Level Multi-stakeholder Dialogue was very successful in forging closer collaboration among relevant sectors and between government officials of sending and receiving countries. Each country identified immediate steps to take, while at the regional level it was proposed that Multi-stakeholder Dialogues should be convened regularly to forge closer collaboration between stakeholders and to follow up on the commitments made.
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