Migrant workers in Thailand have most to lose when tested positive

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - There is nothing more heartbreaking than learning that one has contracted the HIV virus and that seeking medication would mean losing one's only means of survival. This tragic plight is faced by many migrant workers in Thailand.

Even though Thai law requires that all employers provide their workers with social-welfare benefits, only a third of the estimated one million migrant workers in the country are entitled to this privilege because many company owners prefer not to pay the required fees.

And what makes matters even worse is that some hospitals leak the names of workers found to be HIV-positive, and more often than not, these workers are sacked. Of the 261,040 registered migrant workers in Samut Sakhon, only 22,000 were found to have social security, which grants them access to anti-retroviral drugs, while 138,636 only hold health insurance cards that do not cover HIV treatment.

Ye (not her real name), a 42-year-old Myanmar worker, contracted the virus a decade ago from her husband, who died seven years ago. The couple had been sneaking in and out of Thailand looking for jobs since Ye was 17, when agents only charged 900 baht (US$29.3) for a job, which now costs 15,000 baht.

Luckily, her two sons work in Samut Sakhon's Mahachai district and they are helping her cover the 1,500 baht per month needed to cover her medication.

"Without the medication, I would have been dead a long time ago due to complications such as diarrhoea, tuberculosis and bad stomach pain," she said.

Being jobless, Ye has neither health insurance nor social security, but luckily the Rak Thai Foundation got to know about her case and sent her to Samut Sakhon Hospital for treatment.

Panita Thaweelua, from the Anti-retroviral Programme for Alien Workers, said the foundation has enough in donations to provide medical support to 2,000 workers nationwide. However, it can only cover 100 workers in Samut Sakhon, where more than 200 alien workers have tested HIV-positive.

"The problem is that factory owners employing 50 to 100 workers choose not to pay the 5-per-cent fee for social welfare, while those employing 3,000 to 5,000 workers allow less than a third of their workers to join social security in order to mislead officials," she said.

Of the 300,000 legal and illegal foreign workers in Samut Sakhon, at least 80 per cent do not have any health insurance or access to social welfare. In most cases, they are forced to borrow huge sums of money to buy drugs or end up having to beg for treatment at hospitals. Many promise to pay their bills in instalments, but very few are able to keep this promise, which leaves hospitals mired in unpaid bills worth millions of baht.

Sirikorn Lertchayothit, coordinator of the Rak Thai Foundation in Samut Sakhon, said that though the law requires that all alien workers be registered with the social security scheme, many are not because the law is not effectively enforced.

"Those who have other illnesses may be treated in hospitals, but it is almost impossible for those with HIV to get any treatment. They have to buy what is available over the counter and eventually die from complications," she said.

Also, many state agencies prefer not to provide anti-retroviral drugs to migrant workers because they believe it would be a waste, especially since many return home, relocate or change their phone number for fear that others, especially their boss, would find out about their infection.

"Some employers are tipped off by hospitals about their workers being HIV-positive, and often the employers terminate their employment," she said.

As per 2011 statistics revealed by the foundation, Samut Sakhon had 223 migrant workers and 3,853 Thai workers found to be HIV-positive, and 910 died from complications.

Adisorn Kerdmongkol, an NGO official, said foreign workers are made to pay 1,900 baht per year in fees for social security, but only one third of them are entitled to the system. About 70 per cent of them have the health insurance card, which costs them an annual fee of 600 baht.

"Especially foreigners working in the fishing industry don't have access to HIV treatment. Without effective law enforcement, they will never be able to exercise their right to healthcare under the social security system," he said.

US$1 = 30.7 Thai baht

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • National Geographic 'Afghan girl' in Pakistan papers probe
    National Geographic 'Afghan girl' in Pakistan papers probe

    Pakistani officials are investigating after the famous green-eyed "Afghan girl" immortalised in a 1985 National Geographic magazine cover was found living in the country on fraudulent identity papers. The haunting image of the then 12-year-old Sharbat Gula, taken in a refugee camp by photographer Steve McCurry, became the most famous cover image in the magazine's history. Now Pakistani officials say that Gula applied for a Pakistani identity card in the northwestern city of Peshawar in April …

  • Lupita Nyong'o's $150,000 Oscars dress stolen from hotel
    Lupita Nyong'o's $150,000 Oscars dress stolen from hotel

    The $150,000 pearl-studded, custom-made Calvin Klein dress worn by Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o at this year's Academy Awards has been stolen, police said on Thursday. The gown, embellished with 6,000 natural white pearls, was stolen from Nyong'o's room at the London Hotel in West Hollywood, during the day on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in West Hollywood said. "Ms Nyong'o was not in the room at the time of the theft," Deputy John Mitchell …

  • South Korea decriminalises adultery, condom shares soar
    South Korea decriminalises adultery, condom shares soar

    South Korea's Constitutional Court on Thursday struck down a controversial adultery law which for more than 60 years had criminalised extra-marital sex and jailed violators for up to two years. The decision saw shares in the South Korean firm Unidus Corp., one of the world's largest condom manufacturers, soar by the daily limit of 15 percent on the local stock exchange. "Even if adultery should be condemned as immoral, state power should not intervene in individuals' private lives," said …

  • ‘Noy angered by previous SAF failures to get Marwan’
    ‘Noy angered by previous SAF failures to get Marwan’

    Supt. Raymund Train, who led the SAF team that killed Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25, recounted in a sworn statement the meeting he and senior SAF officers had with Aquino in Malacañang on Nov. 30. Train said among the senior officers who attended the meeting were then PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, SAF chief Director Getulio Napeñas, SAF deputy commander Chief Supt. Noli Taliño and intelligence group chief Senior Supt. Fernando Mendez. …

  • NYC, Orthodox Jews reach deal on circumcision suction ritual
    NYC, Orthodox Jews reach deal on circumcision suction ritual

    NEW YORK (AP) — The city said Tuesday it has reached a tentative agreement with members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community over a tradition known as oral suction circumcision. …

  • U.S. flies most advanced surveillance plane from Philippines

    By Manuel Mogato MANILA (Reuters) - The United States has begun flying its most advanced surveillance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, out of the Philippines for patrols over the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy said on Thursday, acknowledging the flights for the first time. The United States, the Philippines' oldest and closest ally, has promised to share "real time" information on what is happening in Philippine waters as China steps up its activities in the South China Sea. China claims most of …

  • Vatican seeks to quell Mexican anger over pope's drug remark
    Vatican seeks to quell Mexican anger over pope's drug remark

    VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican sought Wednesday to defuse a diplomatic tiff with Mexico after Pope Francis referred to the possible "Mexicanization" of his native Argentina from drug trafficking, the latest instance of Francis' casual speaking style getting him into trouble. …

  • US-led strikes on IS after group seizes 220 Christians
    US-led strikes on IS after group seizes 220 Christians

    The US-led coalition carried out air strikes Thursday against the Islamic State group in northeastern Syria, where the jihadists have launched a new offensive and kidnapped 220 Assyrian Christians. The raids struck areas around the town of Tal Tamr in Hasakeh province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, without giving information on possible casualties. The Observatory said negotiations were ongoing "through mediators from Arab tribes and a member of the Assyrian community" to …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options