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.