Improving HIV policy
for migrant workers in India
In response to these findings, India's government is overhauling national policies and programs aimed at reaching people who migrate in search of work.
Highlights of our research include:
- Groundbreaking data on HIV risk behavior among migrants. Even when they return to their hometowns, men who migrate in search of work are more likely than nonmigrant men to engage in sexual behavior that raises their risk and their wives' risk of HIV infection. On the basis of this finding, India adopted a national HIV prevention strategy that focuses on corridors of migration, which include hometowns as well as destinations, rather than on destinations alone.
- Quantifying the role of migration in the spread of HIV. Council researchers found that in areas from which many people migrate to find work (called out-migration), one-half to three-quarters of HIV infections among both men and women can be attributed to the high-risk behaviors of male migrants. We also found that migrant men were five times as likely as nonmigrants to be HIV-positive and that the wives of migrants were three times as likely as the wives of nonmigrants to be HIV-positive. These findings led the Indian government to define a national goal of reducing the HIV infection rate among migrants to the level among nonmigrants by 2017.
- Data underscoring the importance of a centralized approach to prevention. Council findings suggest that piecemeal initiatives from independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are less effective at reducing HIV among migrant populations than a synchronized approach among NGOs in collaboration with the government. On the basis of Council recommendations, India is now building its internal capacity and infrastructure to implement coordinated interventions with long-term sustainability.
"As a result of our expertise," says Population Council demographer and biostatistician Niranjan Saggurti, "we are assisting the Government of India in planning and developing new initiatives for migrants."