African Immigrants Bring
More AIDS To Scotland

By Mandy Rhodes
The Scotsman - UK

There has been a huge increase in cases of HIV infection among people coming to Scotland from Africa, according to figures published by the National Health Service.
In the past four years, the number of new cases of HIV among heterosexual Africans in Scotland has more than trebled. Experts believe the rise poses as big a threat to society as the virus did among gay men and intravenous drug users in the 1980s. Then, only an unprecedented public health campaign and radical measures, such as needle exchange schemes for addicts, prevented an explosion in HIV and AIDS.
"How we identify this group to offer them a test is the number one public health priority in HIV," said Professor David Goldberg, a consultant epidemiologist at the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health. "It is essential we have a testing strategy specifically designed for Africans living in Scotland."
In 1999, the centre recorded 23 new cases of HIV among heterosexual Africans. That rose to 31 in 2000 and 36 in 2001 - but last year, the number reached 74. By the end of September this year, 50 cases had been recorded and it is predicted the total will reach a new high.
Prof Goldberg said there was evidence that African sub-types of HIV have spread among the general population in Scotland. He added: "Offering tests to people coming into this country should be a priority and presented as a benefit to the individual as well as Scotland. We were able to do this in the early 1980s, when we targeted gay men and drug injectors."
On Monday - World Aids Day - Prof Goldberg will debate the issue with Dr Mac Armstrong, the Scottish Executive's chief medical officer, and professionals working in the field of HIV.
Of the 34.3 million people in the world with the virus, two-thirds live in sub-Saharan Africa. In countries such as Botswana, prevalence rates rise as high as one in three and in South Africa, half of all teenagers are estimated to be HIV positive. In contrast, Britain has a prevalence rate of 0.11 per cent.
Africans who have tested positive in Scotland are a combination of asylum seekers, immigrants and students. In all, nearly 6,000 asylum seekers have been moved to Glasgow under the Home Office's dispersal strategy. HIV figures in Greater Glasgow have, for the first time, overtaken Lothian.




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