Labor migration and HIV risk: a systematic review of the literature

AIDS Behav. 2012 Aug;16(6):1605-21. doi: 10.1007/s10461-012-0183-4.


To inform the development of multilevel strategies for addressing HIV risk among labor migrants, 97 articles from the health and social science literatures were systematically reviewed. The study locations were Africa (23 %), the Americas (26 %), Europe (7 %), South East Asia (21 %), and Western Pacific (24 %). Among the studies meeting inclusion criteria, HIV risk was associated with multilevel determinants at the levels of policy, sociocultural context, health and mental health, and sexual practices. The policy determinants most often associated with HIV risk were: prolonged and/or frequent absence, financial status, and difficult working and housing conditions. The sociocultural context determinants most often associated with HIV risk were: cultural norms, family separation, and low social support. The health and mental health factors most often associated with HIV risk were: substance use, other STIs, mental health problems, no HIV testing, and needle use. The sexual practices most often associated with increased HIV risk were: limited condom use, multiple partnering, clients of sex workers, low HIV knowledge, and low perceived HIV risk. Magnitude of effects through multivariate statistics were demonstrated more for health and mental health and sexual practices, than for policy or sociocultural context. The consistency of these findings across multiple diverse global labor migration sites underlines the need for multilevel intervention strategies. However, to better inform the development, implementation, and evaluation of multilevel interventions, additional research is needed that overcomes prior methodological limitations and focuses on building new contextually tailored interventions and policies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Social Environment
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*