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HIV surveillance in complex emergencies.

  • Salama, P
  • Dondero, T J
Published Article
Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer) - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2001
15 Suppl 3
PMID: 11421181


Many studies have shown a positive association between both migration and temporary expatriation and HIV risk. This association is likely to be similar or even more pronounced for forced migrants. In general, HIV transmission in host-migrant or host-forced-migrant interactions depends on the maturity of the HIV epidemic in both the host and the migrant population, the relative seroprevalence of HIV in the host and the migrant population, the prevalence of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that may facilitate transmission, and the level of sexual interaction between the two communities. Complex emergencies are the major cause of mass population movement today. In complex emergencies, additional factors such as sexual interaction between forced-migrant populations and the military; sexual violence; increasing commercial sex work; psychological trauma; and disruption of preventive and curative health services may increase the risk for HIV transmission. Despite recent success in preventing HIV infection in stable populations in selected developing countries, internally displaced persons and refugees (or forced migrants) have not been systematically included in HIV surveillance systems, nor consequently in prevention activities. Standard surveillance systems that rely on functioning health services may not provide useful data in many complex emergency settings. Secondary sources can provide some information in these settings. Little attempt has been made, however, to develop innovative HIV surveillance systems in countries affected by complex emergencies. Consequently, data on the HIV epidemic in these countries are scarce and HIV prevention programs are either not implemented or interventions are not effectively targeted. Second generation surveillance methods such as cross-sectional, population-based surveys can provide rapid information on HIV, STIs, and sexual behavior. The risks for stigmatization and breaches of confidentiality must be recognized. Surveillance, however, is a key component of HIV and STI prevention services for forced migrants. It is required to define the high risk groups, target interventions, and ultimately decrease HIV and STI transmission within countries facing complex emergencies. It is also required to facilitate regional control of HIV epidemics.

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