Illegal labor fuels HIV and TB in Russia – health watchdog

Illegal labor migration is spurring the spread of HIV and tuberculosis in Russia, the head of consumer safety watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, Gennady Onishchenko, said on Wednesday.

“Labor migration [to Russia] remains mostly illegal, which means that there is no proper medical control of it. [So, labor migration brings] tuberculosis as well as HIV/AIDS,” Onishchenko said.

He did not, however, produce any figures for comparative infection rates between Russians and foreign migrant workers

Russia has the third-highest rate of tuberculosis of all countries in Europe and the former Soviet Union, after Moldova and Romania, according to the latest data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The disease flourishes among poorly-nourished people living in cold climates. Most of Russia’s HIV infection is present in intravenous drug users, but has started to cross over into the wider population.

The TB incidence rate is 87 per 100,000 people nationally and up to 120 per 100,000 in some regions, Onishchenko said. About 18 percent of TB patients in Russia die of the disease, according to WHO figures.

By comparison, the rate in the United States is about 8 in 100,000, with some 0.2 percent of TB cases ending in death.

Russia issued more than two million work permits to foreigners in 2009, the BBC Business Report said citing Russian official statistics. The figure for the first nine months of 2010 stood at less than one million permits, or 59 percent of the government’s annual quota.

Legal migrant workers in Russia are required. to undergo health checks including screening for HIV and tuberculosis.


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