People vulnerable to human trafficking (PVHT)

Trafficking in persons is a form of organized crime and a serious human rights violation. It is a complex, ever-changing crime and takes different forms in different parts of the world. It is easily adaptable to shifting circumstances of supply and demand, as well as differing criminal justice capacities in countries of origin, transit and destination. It often targets situations, such as countries in conflict or crisis, where the institutions are weak. It looks for those who are vulnerable, such as migrants, internally displaced persons, refugees, ethnic minorities, women and children.

Human trafficking 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. 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.

Trafficked persons are victims of crime. The most obvious form of victimization is through exploitation. Where data exist, the prevalence of HIV infection has shown to be disproportionately high among people trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, ranging from 40% to up to 90%. Women and girls are most at risk, but so are young boys. Conditions in which sexual exploitation occur commonly include high numbers of clients, violent and/or unprotected sex, poor hygiene of both the setting and the clientele, voluntary or induced drug use including unsafe injecting practices, and inadequate screening and treatment of common sexually transmitted infections.

Victims of other types of exploitation (such as forced labour) are also often exposed to unsafe practices which may lead to HIV infection. Furthermore, victims of all types of trafficking are often beyond the reach of prevention, treatment and care providers.

HIV/AIDS has received little attention in efforts to address trafficking in persons, and specific HIV/ AIDS prevention and care services hardly exist for these people. General responses addressing HIV/AIDS have little impact on trafficked persons due to the clandestine nature of human trafficking, and because people who have been trafficked are not usually reached by services. More focused action, specifically addressing people vulnerable to human trafficking, needs to be urgently developed and implemented.

UNODC aims to help 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. 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, 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 counseling, promoting condom use, treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and providing anti-retroviral treatment and palliative care for persons with AIDS.

Civil society organizations are encouraged to provide health, social and legal assistance services, for example, providing repatriated persons who have been trafficked with comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention and care services and assistance in reintegration, particularly with a view to avoiding re-trafficking. Destination countries are also encouraged to review their repatriations policies with the view of providing people who have been trafficked with the best possible HIV/AIDS prevention and care services. Laws countering stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, especially victims of human trafficking, should be strengthened.