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The vulnerability of migrants to HIV/AIDS in China and Mongolia

Robyn Iredale1

Asia Pacific Migration Research Network (APMRN) Secretariat,

Australian National University, Canberra

Zheng Zhenzhen

Institute of Population and Labor Economics

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Beijing, China

Sung Ho Ko

Institute of Political Education for Unification, South Korea


Countries of North East Asia have experienced an increase in the number of migrants in recent years, both internal and international. Flows across borders, especially from the North Korea to China and often ultimately to the South Korea, or other parts of Asia, and between China, Mongolia and Russia, have escalated markedly in the last decade. South Korea has become an important destination for many migrant workers, including commercial sex workers.

Little is known, however, about either the vulnerabilities of migrant workers to HIV/AIDS or the incidence of HIV amongst migrant populations. Surveillance studies in Asian countries are rarely carried out among migrant communities and, if they are, the risk of stigmatisation is high. Many migrants find themselves in situations of fear and poverty, denial of their rights, lack of services, evading the authorities and isolation from their families and support networks. A sensitive approach that identifies migrant workers’ vulnerabilities, rather than their role in the spread of the epidemic, is largely lacking. So far this has been lacking in the area under study.

Hence in 2003, the UNDP Regional Programme based in Delhi, proposed a systematic process to:

review existing knowledge — migration routes and processes, trafficking routes (where applicable), vulnerabilities to HIV/AIDS,

1 I wish to acknowledge the work of the other two authors who wrote the country reports on China, Mongolia and South Korea for the No Safety Signs Here report (UNDP, 2004).

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