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High rates of HIV infection documented among young Nepalese girls sex-trafficked to India

Boston, MA -- A study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers of girls and women who were sex-trafficked from Nepal to India and then repatriated has found that 38 percent were HIV positive. The infection rate exceeded 60 percent among girls forced into prostitution prior to age 15 years. One in seven of the studys participants had been trafficked into sexual servitude prior to this young age.

Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across the globe every year, and 80 percent of these individuals are estimated to be women and girls, according to the U.S. Department of State. The State Department further reports that the majority of transnational victims are females trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. An estimated 150,000 women and girls are trafficked annually within and across South Asia, with the majority destined for major Indian cities, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.

The high rates of HIV we have documented support concerns that sex trafficking may be a significant factor in both maintaining the HIV epidemic in India and in the expansion of this epidemic to its lower-prevalence neighbors, said Jay Silverman, Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health at HSPH.

India has the third largest HIV/AIDS population in the world, with approximately 2.5 million infected individuals, according to the countrys National AIDS Control Organization, supported by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization. Neighboring Nepal has far lower but increasing numbers of HIV/AIDS cases. Trafficking of Nepalese women and girls to India has been cited by the World Bank as a risk factor for HIV transmission in the region.

Silverman is the lead author of the study published in the August 1, 2007, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). He led a research team in reviewing the medical documentation and case records of 287 girls and women w
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Contact: Christina Roache
croache@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-6052
Harvard School of Public Health
31-Jul-2007


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