16% of New HIV Cases in Canada in 2005 Linked to Immigrants, Report Says
About 16% of all new HIV cases reported in Canada in 2005 were linked to immigrants from countries where HIV is prevalent, according to a report recently released by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, the CP/Toronto Star reports. According to the study, immigrants make up 1.5% of Canada's population. The figures mean the HIV incidence among immigrants from HIV-endemic countries, or people connected with them, was almost 13 times higher in 2005 than for Canadians, according to the CP/Star.
In response to the study, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is considering making HIV a "reportable" disease, which will designate it a public health risk and mandate all health care professionals to immediately report any cases of the virus. As a reportable disease, the source of every case would be investigated to prevent transmission to others. Citizenship and Immigration Canada currently designates HIV as a "notifiable" disease, which means there is no mandatory conditions for follow-up among immigrants who test HIV-positive. However, every province and territory lists HIV as a reportable disease, the CP/Star reports.
Mark Gilbert, co-author of the report, said the goal of making HIV a reportable disease would be to connect with new immigrants who might not know that treatment assistance is available. He added, "From a public health perspective, if HIV were treated as a reportable infection through Citizenship and Immigration Canada, that would be one way of improving the timeliness of connecting with these folks when they come to Canada." However, some critics said making HIV a reportable disease is an unnecessary intrusion on privacy.
Karen Shadd, a spokesperson for the immigration department, said officials have read the report. She added, "It is under consideration, but we're in discussions on the issues that were raised in the report." Since 2002, the immigration department has required a medical exam for immigrants and certain visitors, including an HIV test for those ages 15 and older. Between 2002 and 2006, there were 2,567 immigrant applicants who tested HIV-positive among the 1.2 million immigrants to Canada accepted during the same time. Of the HIV-positive applicants, 89% were determined to be medically admissible to Canada, the CP/Star reports (Theodore, CP/Toronto Star, 7/18).