,  July 19, 2024

Enhancing Migrant Populations' Access to HIV and AIDS Services, Information and Support (EMPHASIS) is Committed to: Universal Access - Continuum of Prevention to Care                                                                                                                                         Promoting Women's Empowerment                                                                                                                                         Dignity and Safety of the Mobile Populations

Sharing Meeting on PLHIV study findings and VCT performances piloted at Government health set up

Sharing Meeting on PLHIV study findings and VCT performances piloted at Government health set up Mobility has long been linked with heightened vulnerability to HIV and AIDS. Bangladesh is still a low HIV prevalence country, but there is a growing concern that vulnerable mobile populations are forming a bridge between high prevalence areas of India and low prevalence areas in Bangladesh. To address this issue, CARE EMPHASIS project organized a Sharing Meeting on PLHIV study findings and VCT performances piloted at Government health set-up on July 23, 2013. A total of 84 participants representing GO/NGO professionals, academicians, development workers and media personnel attended the event. This sharing meeting was intended to focus on the significance of VCT centers at Government health set up which has emerged as a key strategy for HIV prevention. Further this meeting aimed to disseminate the study findings on the experiences of cross border PLHIVs, the barriers for them in accessing ART care and support services. Dr. Munir Ahmed, Advocacy and Social Mobilization Advisor, UNAIDS facilitated the meeting.


Dr. Jahangir Hossain, Director Program- Health of CARE Bangladesh in his welcome address explained the aims of EMPHASIS project activities. EMPHASIS, he said, was initiated as a pilot to explore and address the vulnerabilities faced by cross-border mobile populations. Dr. Jahangir also stressed on the importance of VCT interventions models and suggested that they be replicated to other government health settings.



Mirza Manbira Sultana, Regional Research Manager gave a detailed presentation on PLHIV study findings of EMPHASIS Project. This presentation highlighted overall HIV situation in three countries (Bangladesh, Nepal and India) and migration scenario of people living with HIV. The study intended to explore (i) barriers to accessing HIV treatment, care and support services, (ii) experience of migrant PLHIV at source and destination, (iii) livelihood and economic condition of PLHV and family members and (iv) assess factor determining social exclusion of PLHIV in the community. Some recommendations emerged from this study to reinforce ongoing programme and policy advocacy. These included: (i) Sustainable treatment care and support services at GoB health settings in areas where PLHIV concentration is high (ii) Reduce stigma and discrimination and fear of status disclosure at GoB service institute and (iii) Informal facilitation from NGOs should continue to link PLHIV between India and Bangladesh.


The VCT findings revealed that out of the 1109 people tested between May 2012 and July 2013, 25 people tested HIV-positive (all of whose families have histories of migration to India) and EMPHASIS linked them to PLHIV self-help groups for treatment, care and support services.

Talking about the significance of VCT centers to reduce the HIV vulnerability of mobile population between Bangladesh and India Mr Abu Taher, Team Leader of EMPHASIS project highlighted overall performance of 2 VCT centers from April 2012 to July 2013. He said, in the EMPHASIS project areas (Jessore and Satkhira districts), there is high mobility between Bangladesh and India and communities are particularly vulnerable to HIV. In response to this, EMPHASIS supported the establishment of 2 VCT centers in the government health facilities, including provision of staff and training. Also the referral linkage facilitated by EMPHASIS between VCT centers, other government and non-government settings is critical to ensure sustainable service access for the key population. Referring to areas of advocacy he mentioned that counselor position in GoB organogram and money allocation in national budget to purchase testing kits and strengthen VCT promotional activities at community and institution level.



In an open discussion session that followed, participants made valuable suggestions and contributed actively in the dialogue. Suggestions regarding sensitization of health providers, police (law enforcing agency) and community members on issues related to sexual harassment were put forward. A significant number of participants also made suggestions to Integrate both NGO and government program to reduce HIV vulnerabilities and women vulnerabilities (stigma and discrimination and trafficking). The participant also pointed out about psycho-social support for PLHIV, which is currently missing in program intervention. Mr. A M Badrudduja, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was the Chief Guest at the event. He stressed that the Government of Bangladesh was working to address HIV/AIDS related issues in partnership with civil society. As part of the initiative, CD4 machine is scheduled to be set-up in Government hospitals from January 2014. Talking about the vulnerabilities of migrant population he emphasized that an inter-country program on migrant population can be initiated. He also suggested preparing a justification note to create the position of VCT counsellor and to submit to the relevant department.

The Program Manager-National AIDS/STD Programme (NASP), Dr. Md Sydur Rahman attended as the Chairperson of the event. He said that the HIV prevalence rate in the country is still below 1% because of early targeted intervention and strong family links in Bangladesh. However, at the same time, he stressed that the government and civil society should not be complacent about the threat and made a commitment to include cross border mobile population (CBMP) in the next sero surveillance.

The meeting concluded with a vote of thanks by Mr. Rahman.

Media coverage:
Representatives from both electronic and print media were also present at this workshop. Abu Taher, team leader of EMPHASIS Bangladesh country team interviewed by BBC radio. Follow the link above to listen to the interview. \\Data\data\CARE BD This week\CARE BD This Week in 2013\July 21-25 2013\EMPHASIS

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