Laos’ HIV/AIDS National Committee officials report
that the HIV/AIDS infection in Laos has increased every year since 1990. Random
blood tests conducted on almost 175,000 people so far have shown that 2,858
people are HIV/AIDS positive, with 1,837 having full-blown AIDS. Of that number, 873 have died.
Although the number
of HIV/AIDS positives is less than 2% of the total number of people screened, Lao
officials believe that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is in a rising trend, given the
fact that Lao workers have increasingly flowed from rural to urban areas,
combined with the fact that more and more young Lao leave home to sneak across
the border into Thailand and illegally work there, especially women who are often
forced into prostitution. As a high-ranking Lao official points out, “There
are many risk factors contributing to the rise of HIV/AIDS infection. Migration of the people is one. In a developing country
such as ours, conditions facilitating the mobility of the people are many,
whether from rural areas to urban, as well as from abroad into our country and
vice versa. ”
The rise of the HIV/AIDS infection among Lao
population also stems from the fact that themajority of Lao male workers, between
the age of 15 and 49 years old, tend to have unprotected sex. Thus, Lao officials predict that the number of
infected people will reach 50,000 by 2015.
According to the Thai Ministry of Labor and Social
Welfare, there are currently over 300,000Lao workers working illegally in
Thailand. More than 60% of that number are women and children, who are at very
high risk of falling victims of transnational human trafficking because, since
2001, Thai officials have been able to rescue and return to Laos a mere 1,229
Lao children and women victims of labor and human trafficking. Thai officials further
say their studies show most of the restaurants, night clubs and karaoke bars along
the border between Laos and northeastern Thailand, often are fronts for prostitution
businesses, creating a favorable condition for HIV/AIDs transmission. And prostitutes are mostly Lao women and girls.
Also, according to VOA-Lao stringer in Bangkok, the
increase of HIV/AIDS epidemic is especially significant in Laos’ border
provinces such as
in Oudomxay province which experiences an influx of foreign workers, namely from China.
Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.