Heilongjiang province identified 261 HIV/AIDS cases up to September 2005, and the infection channel has shifted from illegal blood sell to sexual infection, women cases increased from 19.6% in 1999 to 33.8% in 2005. It is believed that one of the factors of HIV/AIDS transmission is the frequent mobility between Heilongjiang and Russia, one of the countries with highest increase rate of AIDS incidence.
Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS
The temporary and irregular nature of migration from Russia means that visitors or over-stayers are outside of the public health system and therefore not covered by any campaigns of public education.
A research team from the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health of Harbin Medical University, carried out an investigation among migratory workers in the service sectors in Harbin, Suihua, Mudanjiang, Daqing, and Heihe (Sun et al, 2002). The results of a questionnaire survey of 393 women show that migratory women lacked knowledge on HIV/AIDS prevention and they had very limited use of condoms. The team tried to distribute education materials among women workers in the service sector and they also developed material in Russian to distribute to Russian young women working in the service sector and tourists. The research team also interviewed more than 100 Russian girls to gauge their knowledge on HIV/AIDS prevention and it was found that Russian girls were more knowledgeable than Chinese migratory women on the issue.
(c) North Korea to China
Since the entry of North Koreans is not formally permitted, the distribution and size of this group is not clear. China refers to them as ‘defectors’ while the UNHCR defines many of them as refugees.
The situation escalated in the mid-1990s when a historic flood allegedly engulfed the whole country creating economic problems, especially food shortages. A massive number of people began to cross the border and people left for China, Russia and elsewhere. The Chinese government gives a number of 10,000 persons but international aid groups estimate that from 150,000 to 300,000 North Korean refugees are hiding in North East China, Russia and Mongolia. These numbers vary in part since different definitions are used (Ko et al., 2002).4 Some of the defectors may be simple border-crossers who may return home when their economic needs have been met. Others may wish to stay rather longer outside their home country. Still others may not want to return at all, even hoping to enter South Korea.
The cross-border movement of North Koreans can be broken down into two parts depending upon the origin of travel. One origin of migrants is Siberia where North
4 The term ‘North Korean defector’ has been widely used with no clear definition. In certain cases, it means a refugee in international convention. In other cases, it means any North Koreans who have moved out of North Korea with no official permit. The latter definition, which is adopted in this report, may include irregular North Korean migrants.