Refugee men may have come from countries and situations where they were at risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. They may have little access to information about family planning and sexual health services. Religious beliefs or cultural attitudes can also restrict access to these services.
Information about sexual health, targeting particular communities, is available including the Men’s Health Forum which gives information on sexual health problems and sexually transmitted infections.
Refugee families with dependent children, as well as unaccompanied minors, may need support and advocacy to register with a GP. The NHS Choices website provides help in finding GPs, dentists, opticians, pharmacies and Walk-in Centres. The access and entitlements area of this website provides further information.
Living with HIV: The Refugee Mentoring Project (.PDF) The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) offers support to all those living with HIV in the UK. THT promotes safer sex and good sexual health in general through the range of services it offers and the campaigns and publicity it generates.
TB is a contagious disease that kills around 1.6 million people each year. TB is the leading cause of death amongst HIV infected people; the WHO estimates that TB accounts for up to a third of AIDS deaths worldwide.
When someone is infected with TB, the likelihood of him or her becoming sick with the disease is increased many times if they are also HIV positive.
More information and guidance on HIV and tuberculosis is provided by:
According to the World Health organisation (WHO), every day some 1500 children under 15 years of age become infected with HIV, an estimated 90% of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2005, there were 2.3 million children living with HIV worldwide, most of whom acquired the virus in utero, during birth or while being breastfed, all ways of contracting HIV that can be prevented.
All women in the antenatal system, including refugee women, are routinely tested for HIV, and if HIV positive, given specialist care and treatment to prevent vertical (mother-to-baby) transmission of the virus. Practitioners should be aware that some women may have received no antenatal care prior to delivery.
Early intervention can largely prevent vertical transmission of HIV. Interventions include:
HIV and AIDS may be a particular concern for some refugee women. According to Amnesty International, in Sub-Saharan Africa 57% of adults living with the virus are women, and two thirds of young HIV-positive people are women and girls. The worldwide proportion of women living with HIV or AIDS is almost 50 per cent. Globally, young women are 1.6 times more likely to be living with HIV or AIDS than young men.
A variety of agencies and services have developed support for particular minority ethnic communities, including refugees. They are able to raise awareness and provide culturally sensitive advice, information and support. Services include:
The Naz Project London (NPL) provides sexual health and HIV prevention and support services to South Asian, Middle Eastern, North African, Horn of African and Latin American communities. Translated resources are available.