A study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers of girls and women who were sex-trafficked from Nepal to India and then repatriated has found that 38 percent were HIV positive. The infection rate exceeded 60 percent among girls forced into prostitution prior to age 15 years. One in seven of the study’s participants had been trafficked into sexual servitude prior to this young age.
Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across the globe every year, and 80 percent of these individuals are estimated to be women and girls, according to the U.S. Department of State. The State Department further reports that the majority of transnational victims are females trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. An estimated 150,000 women and girls are trafficked annually within and across South Asia, with the majority destined for major Indian cities, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.
“The high rates of HIV we have documented support concerns that sex trafficking may be a significant factor in both maintaining the HIV epidemic in India and in the expansion of this epidemic to its lower-prevalence neighbors,” said Jay Silverman, Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health at HSPH.
India has the third largest HIV/AIDS population in the world, with approximately 2.5 million infected individuals, according to the country’s National AIDS Control Organization, supported by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization. Neighboring Nepal has far lower but increasing numbers of HIV/AIDS cases. Trafficking of Nepalese women and girls to India has been cited by the World Bank as a risk factor for HIV transmission in the region.
Silverman is the lead author of the study published in the August 1, 2007, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). He led a research team in reviewing the medical documentation and case records of 287 girls and women who had been sex-trafficked from Nepal to India between the years 1997 and 2005. All had been repatriated back to Nepal and had received rehabilitative services from Maiti Nepal, a non-governmental organization that works to assist trafficking victims. The word “Maiti” means “mother’s home” in Nepali.
The researchers found that among the 287 girls and women, 38 percent tested positive for HIV. Among those with complete documentation of trafficking experiences (225 girls and women), the median age at time of trafficking was 17 years, with 33 girls (14.7 percent) trafficked prior to age 15 years. Compared to those trafficked at 18 years or older, girls trafficked prior to age 15 years had an increased risk for HIV, with 60.6 percent infected among this youngest age group. Risk was also associated with being trafficked specifically to Mumbai, India, and with longer durations in brothels.
“HIV infection has been seen as perhaps the most critical health consequence of sex trafficking, but sex-trafficked girls and women are rarely studied — leaving the prevalence of HIV and other health issues among this highly vulnerable population little understood,” said Silverman. “This study sheds new light on infection rates among a sex-trafficked population and exposes both the tragic existence of the youngest victims and the dire health consequences of this crime.”
Silverman and his team suggest several likely explanations for the observed high risk for HIV infection among the youngest trafficked girls. Previous research on male brothel clients in India suggests that these men prefer very young girls, often presented as virgins, due to fear of HIV and other infection, as well as to the widespread myth that sex with a virgin will cure such illnesses. As a result of client demand and of the relatively high profits earned from prostituting these very young girls, brothel owners take steps to keep them in captivity for longer periods of time. The HSPH team found that girls trafficked under age 15 were more likely than older girls to be held in brothels for a year or longer, and that the risk of HIV infection increased by two percent for every additional month of brothel detention.
“Historically, there has been little recognition of these young girls in brothels because they are typically hidden from both legal authorities and those working to help and study prostituted women,” said co-author and former HSPH doctoral student Jhumka Gupta.
Added co-author and HSPH doctoral student Michele Decker, “Now, we are learning that these youngest girls not only exist, but are actually the most vulnerable to HIV, highlighting the need for improved prevention of trafficking and greater efforts to identify and rescue sex-trafficked girls.”
Silverman and his team suggest that the prevention of sex trafficking and the intervention into the practice should be seen as a critical aspect of preventing both the spread of HIV/AIDS and reducing a widespread and violent human rights violation.
The authors assert that few resources have been devoted to the prevention of sex trafficking, particularly in relation to the large estimated numbers of affected individuals and to the public health consequences. In particular, the authors specify that approaches oriented to male clientele that reduce the demand for sex from young prostituted girls must be emphasized.
“Just as in other areas of HIV prevention, we can no longer afford to ignore the behavior of men and boys,” said Silverman. “Addressing the widely accepted male demand for commercial sex is critical to ending this modern day form of female slavery.”
Christina Roache | EurekAlert!
WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences