Identifying the risk factors for HIV and STD has had a positive impact on the prevention and treatment of these serious diseases. But is migration one of those risk factors? Should we be considered about the millions of people who are migrating across South Africa and spreading HIV and other STDs? A 2003 study has investigated this very same question, so let’s find out the answer, shall we?
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The role of migration in HIV transmission among those living in South Africa
Africa is one of the countries with the highest STD prevalence in the world, being one of the high burden countries as it is. A study published in 2016 has revealed that there are approximately 36.7 million people infected with HIV on an international level, with 2.1 million of those living in Africa alone. But it is not only adults that are affected by this frightening disease. Over the years, it has been suggested that 91% of the HIV-infected children are living in Africa, as well.
And it is not only HIV that we need to be worried about since there are many common STDs such as gonorrhea and syphilis that are also frequently diagnosed in Africa as well. Despite the fact that they are curable as compared to HIV, they still present an economic burden and a factor that reduces the quality of life for these individuals.
Researching common factors
Researchers have made an effort to discover the most common factors that contribute to the high HIV and STD rates in Africa. It has been revealed that people living in Africa are usually unaware of the risks that these dangerous diseases pose, but studies have also revealed that there have been many people who are very well aware of these risks and still fail to get regular check-ups and proper treatment when needed. For example, a study published in 2019 has revealed that it is the feelings of shame and fear that are preventing these people from asking for help, which is why they decide to live with the consequences in silence.
But the search for the factors that contribute to the high HIV rates has begun as early as 2003 when a study has been published in the Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Researchers have conducted the study to investigate if migration plays any role in the spreading of the HIV infection.
For the purposes of the research, 196 migrant men and 130 of their rural partners, including 64 nonmigrant men and 98 rural women, have been included in the study. The male migrants have been recruited at work in two different urban centers with their rural partners being invited to participate as well, while the nonmigrant couples have been recruited for comparison. Questionnaires and blood samples for HIV detection have been used to determine the presence of HIV infection in both migrant and nonmigrant couples.
What the study revealed was that migration is one of the high-risk factors for HIV infection, next to practicing unprotected sexual intercourse and having lived in four or more places during a lifetime. For women, being the partner of a migrant man has not been considered to be a significant risk factor for HIV. This draws attention to proper workplace interventions to prevent further spreading of HIV and other common STDs.
Over the years, researchers have been able to identify any high-risk factors for HIV and other common STDs. With that, they have been able to raise awareness and work to reduce the high HIV and STD rates on an international level. One of those high-risk factors for HIV has been migration, especially in South Africa. With that, we are one step closer to causing a significant decline in the STD and HIV prevalence and preserving people’s lives.