Migrants to the U.K. are carriers of TB, HIV and malaria

hiv aids ribbonLONDON: Migrants to England, Wales and Northern Ireland constitute 70 per cent of people afflicted with tuberculosis, HIV and malaria, according to a report by the Health Protection Agency of the country.

In its first report on the health of migrants, the agency, however, said there is little evidence to suggest the general population is at an increased risk because of this. It may be a disproportionate burden, the agency said, but it is a small fraction of people not born in the U.K.

According to government data, as many as 1,500 migrants arrived in the country everyday in 2005.

Dr Jane Jones of the agency said the majority of TB, HIV and malaria cases were found in people not born in the U.K. But, she added, this must be put in context -- most of the migrants do not have these diseases. The reason for the high incidence could be that they came from regions where these infections are more common and they had either been infected before they came to the country or got the infections while on visit to their countries of origin.

The agency said some 59,000 Britons have an HIV infection and there were almost 8,000 new cases in 2005.

The agency has recommended increased surveillance, primary care support and raising awareness to improve the health of migrants. The agency is collating more evidence to find out whether screening of migrants on arrival would be an effective method.

Meanwhile, health care professional are worried that with Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU next year and migration from these countries becoming easier, there could be a spurt in AIDS as these two countries are said to be having the highest rates of AIDS epidemic in Europe.

The agency also warned of an increase in the number of cases of syphilis. It said in 1996 there were 137 people diagnosed with the disease in England and Wales but by 2005 the number had risen to almost 3,000. It attributed the cause for the increase to people not practising safe sex. Even the number of detected cases may just be the tip of an iceberg, it said.

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