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Middle-East and African leaders unite efforts to reduce vulnerability to HIV for migrants and mobile populations in and around sea ports

Participants commit to 'Red Sea Initiative' addressing vulnerability of mobile populations in and around ports of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden

Djibouti, 29 September 2010 - Some 200 leaders from the Middle-East and across Africa have gathered at the International Conference on Ports, Mobility, Migration and Vulnerability to HIV in Djibouti, to commit to Universal Access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for mobile populations and migrants.

The conference, organized by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the International Organization of Migration and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), was held to address the need for better access to HIV services for mobile and migrant populations in and around ports--populations which are more at risk of HIV infection but which are often missed by HIV programming.

"It is essential that mobile and migrant populations living in and transiting through ports have access to HIV services and are included in national HIV plans," said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director, of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. "Achieving universal access means making sure all sectors of society are reached, particularly people most vulnerable to infection."

According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, 74,000 people from around Africa crossed the Red Sea from the Horn of Africa to Yemen in 2009, 50% more than the number of people who undertook the same journey in 2008. Migration due to people fleeing armed conflicts or seeking economic opportunities has resulted in a large number of people living in or transiting through the ports. These populations are particularly vulnerable to HIV but have limited, or no access to HIV services. In addition the drivers, dock workers, port staff, security staff, ship crews and sex workers living in and around the ports are also at higher risk of exposure.

Participants at the conference agreed to strengthen HIV programmes for mobile and migrant populations and integrate them into National Strategic Plans; improve information sharing, reinforce the capacity of civil society and develop a communication strategy focusing on human rights. On the final day high level participants from across Africa and the Middle-East signed a declaration of commitment to improve access to services for mobile populations.

Governments, national programme representatives, development partners, UN agencies, port authorities and civil society representatives from across the region also committed to increasing efforts around the 'Red Sea Initiative', an initiative which compliments the work on mobility and mobile populations carried out by IGAD by specifically addressing the issue of migration and mobile populations in and around the ports of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Co-organiser of the conference, the President of the Republic of Djibouti HE M. Ismaïl Omar Guelleh , said, "If Universal Access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is the responsibility of each state, Universal Access for vulnerable populations in situations of voluntary or forced mobility is an international solidarity issue that we should assume together if we want to reverse the spread of the HIV epidemic."

UNAIDS' vision: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.



UNAIDS Geneva | Sophie Barton-Knott | tel. +41 22 791 1697 |
UNAIDS MENA | Nicole Massoud | tel. +20100927171 |


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