Publications & Reports

Left behind on the path to 90-90-90: understanding and responding to HIV among displaced people.

Vasylyeva TI, Horyniak D, Bojorquez I, Pham MD
Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health, University of California San Diego, San Diego, California, USA.


INTRODUCTION: In 2021, the number of people affected by displacement worldwide reached the highest on record, with an estimated 30.5 million refugees and 4.6 million asylum seekers seeking safety across international borders and further 53.2 million people displaced within their countries of origin. Most forcibly displaced persons come from or relocate to lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and many of those countries have large HIV epidemics. In this commentary, we describe some of the challenges at the intersection of HIV and displacement vulnerabilities that cannot be easily addressed in resource-limited environments. DISCUSSION: HIV transmission and prevention and treatment efforts in the context of displacement are affected by myriad behavioural, social and structural factors across different stages of the displacement journey. For example, structural barriers faced by people experiencing displacement in relation to HIV prevention and care include funding constraints and legal framework deficiencies. Such barriers prevent all forced migrants, and particularly those whose sexual identities or practices are stigmatized against, access to prevention and care equal to local residents. Xenophobia, racism and other social factors, as well as individual risky behaviours facilitated by experiences of forced migration, also affect the progress towards 90-90-90 targets in displaced populations. Current evidence suggests increased HIV vulnerability in the period before displacement due to the effect of displacement drivers on medical supplies and infrastructure. During and after displacement, substantial barriers to HIV testing exist, though following resettlement in stable displacement context, HIV incidence and viral suppression are reported to be similar to those of local populations. CONCLUSIONS: Experiences of often-marginalized displaced populations are diverse and depend on the context of displacement, countries of origin and resettlement, and the nature of the crises that forced these populations to move. To address current gaps in responses to HIV in displacement contexts, research in LMIC, particularly in less stable resettlement settings, needs to be scaled up. Furthermore, displaced populations need to be specifically addressed in national AIDS strategies and HIV surveillance systems. Finally, innovative technologies, such as point-of-care viral load and CD4 testing, need to be developed and introduced in settings facing displacement.

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  • Journal: Journal of the International AIDS Society
  • Published: 01/11/2022
  • Volume: 25
  • Issue: 11
  • Pagination: e26031