Health and hygiene is fundamental
Maiti Nepal has also been the site of research into sex trafficking as a human rights abuse and a significant public health problem. Recent papers in JAMA and Emerging Infectious Diseases have documented that HIV infection risk increases for every month that a girl is in a brothel, and that the youngest girls, those under age 15 at the time of trafficking, are at the highest risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, including hepatitis B and syphilis.
Rates of HIV infection among survivors are as high as 60% in the youngest girls. This large population of immunosuppressed patients residing at Maiti Nepal is at high risk for tuberculosis infection as well. The first case of multi-drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis in Nepal was diagnosed at Maiti Nepal, suggesting that it may serve as a key point for sentinel surveillance of emerging infectious diseases in Nepal. Maiti Nepal is known as a refuge within Nepal, and serves as an informal ‘safe haven’ for orphans and displaced people from across Nepal. The health of the residents at Maiti Nepal may serve as an indicator of the health of these vulnerable populations overall.
The medical needs of Maiti Nepal’s girls during and after their rescue and rehabilitation are complex. Many of the girls return from India pregnant, or having had multiple abortions while in the brothels, and some have obstetrical complications or have infants who have been perinatally infected with HIV. Because of stigma and discrimination, it is difficult to find doctors, particularly specialists, willing to provide medical care to survivors of sex trafficking. Mental health is another area of great need, as the girls have survived an extremely physically and emotionally traumatic experience.
Maiti Nepal has established two Hospices in to provide holistic care for children and women who are terminally ill. Hospice emphasizes palliative rather than curative treatment. Sonja Kill Memorial Hospice located at Gokarna of Kathmandu District provides necessary care and support for survivors whom families and society have stigmatized shunned. Hospice has capacity of 43 beds and provides medical treatment to survivors who are infected with HIV/AIDS, Multi Drug Resistance Tuberculosis, Hepatitis and other chronic diseases. An isolation unit with capacity of 3 beds also has been operating since January 2006.
In 2006 A Child’s Right installed two water treatment facilities. Thanks to their generous gift, Maiti Nepal now has a regular supply of clean potable water.