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Open Access Open Badges Research article

HIV epidemic in Far-Western Nepal: effect of seasonal labor migration to India

Naveen K Vaidya12 and Jianhong Wu3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada

2 Theoretical Biology and Biophysics Group, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, USA

3 Center for Disease Modeling, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:310  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-310

Published: 13 May 2011



Because of limited work opportunities in Nepal and the open-border provision between Nepal and India, a seasonal labor migration of males from Far-Western Nepal to India is common. Unsafe sexual activities of these migrants in India, such as frequent visits to brothels, lead to a high HIV prevalence among them and to a potential transmission upon their return home to Nepal. The present study aims to evaluate the role of such seasonal labor-migration to India on HIV transmission in Far-Western Nepal and to assess prevention programs.


An HIV epidemic model was developed for a population in Far-Western Nepal. The model was fitted to the data to estimate the back and forth mobility rates of labor-migrants to India, the HIV prevalence among migrants and the HIV transmission rate in Far-Western Nepal. HIV prevalence, new infections, disease deaths and HIV infections recruited from India were calculated. Prevention programs targeting the general population and the migrants were evaluated.


Without any intervention programs, Far-Western Nepal will have about 7,000 HIV infected individuals returning from India by 2015, and 12,000 labor-migrants living with HIV in India. An increase of condom use among the general population from 39% to 80% will reduce new HIV infections due to sexual activity in Far-Western Nepal from 239 to 77. However, such a program loses its effectiveness due to the recruitment of HIV infections via returning migrants from India. The reduction of prevalence among migrants from 2.2% to 1.1% can bring general prevalence down to 0.4% with only 3,500 recruitments of HIV infections from India.


Recruitment of HIV infections from India via seasonal labor-migrants is the key factor contributing to the HIV epidemic in Far-Western Nepal. Prevention programs focused on the general population are ineffective. Our finding highlights the urgency of developing prevention programs which reduce the prevalence of HIV among migrants for a successful control of the HIV epidemic in Far-Western Nepal.