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Canada to start testing immigrants for HIV

TORONTO, Ontario (Reuters) -- Canada, concerned with health risks to its citizens and new demands on its already fragile Medicare system, plans to screen would-be immigrants for HIV and Hepatitis B and deny them entry if they test positive, according to Toronto's Sunday Star.

People applying to immigrate to Canada are currently only tested for tuberculosis and syphilis. Canada, which has a population of more than 30 million, receives about 250,000 immigrants annually.

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The Sunday Star said Canada was on guard against HIV, the AIDS-causing virus, and Hepatitis B, a sexually transmitted liver disease, because most new immigrants were from high-risk regions, including Asia and Africa.

Ron St. John, director of Health Canada's office of health and security, said a computer model calculated that one in 1,000 immigrants arrived annually with the HIV virus.

Each HIV patient cost the state-run national health system, which is being strained by the country's aging population, between $97,500 (C$150,000) and $169,000 (C$260,000), he said.

St. John said overseas doctors, who screen people applying to immigrate, have had the discretion of screening for HIV. Canada will now join 50 countries worldwide, including the United States, that routinely screen immigrants for HIV. The United States has screened immigrants for HIV since 1987.

The newspaper said Canada also would improve the health screening of refugees admitted into the country for humanitarian reasons.

A pilot project of refugees in Montreal will determine whether refugees should be tested for tuberculosis within 60 days of arrival or within the first five days.

A second study will decide whether point-of-entry testing of refugees for malaria is worth doing.

The Sunday Star said doctors in Montreal recently found that of a group of 223 Africans who arrived on a humanitarian flight from refugee camps in Burundi, 13 showed up days later at emergency rooms, and local doctors often failed to recognize the illness.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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RELATED SITES:
Health Canada
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
The Body: HIV/AIDS and Immigration
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