TUCSON, Ariz., Jan. 16, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- President Trump has designated this month as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Physicians need to become aware of this problem and learn to recognize signs that a patient may be a victim, states Jane M. Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).
Worldwide, an estimated 25 million people are victims of human trafficking for both sex and forced labor, according to the President's statement. A 2014 report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated that at least 510 trafficking flows had been detected, but that conviction rates were low. It's a "low-risk, high-profit activity for criminals."
According to sources cited by the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) in its January 2018 newsletter, human trafficking is believed to be the third largest and most rapidly growing criminal industry, generating more than $32 billion annually. Up to 17,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year, and one in six U.S. runaways is a sex-trafficking victim. Supply and demand are increasing because of transactions expedited by the internet. Social media sites are used to lure and market victims.
A 2014 study published in the Annals of Health Law reported that almost all victims experience medical problems, and a significant number have some contact with a medical professional, especially to obtain birth control. Very often the clinician fails to recognize the trafficking problem.
Red flags, especially in women and children, include: signs of malnourishment; evidence of physical injury or abuse; seemingly scripted or rehearsed responses; and tattoos/branding on the neck and/or lower back, states ACPeds.
The Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign is gathering resources to combat the problem.
Billboards announce a toll-free line, to request help or report suspected trafficking, 888-373-7888, which could also be prominently posted in physicians' offices or emergency medical facilities. The number could also be provided inconspicuously to suspected victims, as on an appointment card, if the victim might be intimidated by the trafficker at the time of the visit. Another suggested method is to text HELP to: BeFree (233733).
"This is a very sensitive issue, as the trafficker 'owns' the victim, who has serious to reason to fear for her safety if she attempts to run away or ask for help," states Dr. Orient. "An alert physician may be the victim's best hope for rescue."
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a national organization representing physicians in virtually all specialties and every state. Founded in 1943, AAPS has the motto "omnia pro aegroto," which means "all for the patient."
SOURCE Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)