A study on the prevalence of HIV infection among Nepalese girls and women trafficked as sex slaves shows that this type of illegal business is helping HIV spread HIV in South East Asia. Of those who were sent to India and other countries as sex slaves and then sent back home, 38% were found to be HIV infected. For those sent away before the age of 15 (one in seven), the rate is even higher with 60% of them coming home infected with the virus.

US Department of State and Congressional Research Service report that around 800,000 people are trafficked across the globe every year with 150,000 throughout South Asia. Most of girls from Asia are being taken to India and forced into sex slavery or commercial sexual exploitation.

The problem is that sex-trafficked girls are not being studied, so the prevalence of HIV infection and other health issues are not very well known. One thing is certain, HIV represents the most critical health consequence of sex trafficking and one of the main factors that could help maintain HIV epidemic as well as prevent further expansion of the disease.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Boston and their colleagues from different research centers reviewed medical records of 287 women who had been sex-trafficked from Nepal to India between1997 and 2005. As earlier mentioned, 38% of the girls tested HIV positive. The median age of girls being trafficked appears to be 17, with 14.7% being under 15 at the time. The younger girls were help longer in brothels and were at more risk of contracting HIV. There is a bigger demand for younger girls as more male customers are looking for virgins in order to avoid HIV and other diseases.

Researchers concluded that more attention should be paid at reducing and intervening in sex trafficking in South Asia in order to reduce and control spread of HIV and protect the victims.