Trafficking in Persons

Trafficking in Persons is often referred to as one of the fastest growing transnational organized crimes. However, little reliable data exist about the exact scale of this crime. Many countries do not have anti-trafficking laws and therefore are not able to provide clear statistics. Only limited global and regional trends and developments can be seen. These relate to the origin of trafficked persons, their transit and countries of destination, as well as victim and offender profiles.

The Risks

So far, it is clear that women and girls are most at risk, but so too are young boys. Many girls and women are being trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation and it seems highly likely that they are forced into unprotected sexual acts with multiple partners, and this is a significant factor in the spread of HIV. HIV has received little attention in efforts to address trafficking in persons, and therefore at the moment specific HIV/AIDS prevention and care services hardly exist for these people.

While many national HIV/AIDS plans include policies and programmes addressing sex work, issues such as trafficking in persons, coercion into sex work, rape and sexual violence are usually not addressed. General responses addressing HIV/AIDS have little impact on trafficked persons due to the clandestine nature of the crime, and because people who have been trafficked are not usually reached by services. More focused action, specifically addressing people vulnerable to trafficking, needs to be urgently developed and implemented.

Working to Combat Trafficking

UNODC supports countries to provide people vulnerable to trafficking, particularly women and girls, with comprehensive, gender-sensitive, HIV prevention and care in countries of origin, transit and destination. The Office is trying to achieve this by encouraging countries to set in place large-scale awareness and advocacy campaigns on the nature and extent of trafficking in persons and the related HIV risks and response.

UNODC also helps countries provide at-risk groups with information on HIV transmission and how to protect themselves from entering a trafficking situation and being infected with HIV (safe mobility packages), and providing people vulnerable to human trafficking with appropriate HIV prevention and care services. This includes information and education, voluntary and confidential HIV testing and counselling, promoting condom use, treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and providing anti-retroviral treatment and palliative care for persons with AIDS.

Generally, governments in Southern Africa, not unlike the rest of the world, are unaware of the extent of human trafficking in their countries and the connection between trafficking in persons and HIV/AIDS. This is not surprising as globally there remains little reliable data about the exact scale of human and in particular its impact on HIV transmission.