May 27, 2003
Men from Central America, South America or the Caribbean made up the largest group of new HIV cases among immigrants in 2002, followed by women from Africa. The 65 percent increase in HIV infections diagnosed among foreign-born residents prompted state and local officials to refocus efforts on educating that group of Iowans in particular.
The immigrants represented in the statistics either were not officially diagnosed before leaving their native countries or did not become infected until after they arrived. "We might need to come up with new interventions for early testing so they find out their status earlier so they aren't inadvertently passing their HIV on to others," said Randy Mayer, HIV/AIDS surveillance coordinator for the state public health department. "A lot of the immigrants, it seems, are not aware of their status and are surprised to find out."
Most people entering the United States on temporary visas, such as student or tourist visas, are not required to undergo a medical examination that would reveal infections such as HIV, said Jerry Heinauer, interim director for the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services district in Omaha. Those who are known to have been diagnosed in their home country with a contagious, communicable disease can be refused entrance for that reason, he said.