The Health Ministry on Thursday opened a new clinic for refugees and foreign workers in southern Tel Aviv.
The clinic, which opened its doors on Thursday, cost approximately $900,000 to build and will be able to treat 100 patients a day, according to reports by Army Radio. The clinic includes a lab for urine and blood sample testing and other diagnostic tools such as electrocardiogram machines. Basic medicines will be distributed free, but patients will be required to pay a $3 admission fee.
Ministry teams have begun a campaign to encourage testing, safe sex and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases among the sex workers, and clean-needle campaign among the addicts. In 2011, Israel's Health Ministry had identified 5,249 HIV carriers in Israel.
According to the Health Ministry, 17% of HIV carriers and 13% of tuberculosis patients in the past decade have been refugees and foreign workers. As many are illegal and do not get state health insurance, this is very worrisome.
Dr. Zohar Mor, in charge of TB and AIDS monitoring in Israel, said there is a trend of rising figures of such infections among these foreigners.
The diseases are endemic in Sudan and other African countries from which the foreigners come, he said. But because many of the refugees and foreign workers arrived and entered the country without permission, they have not been tested and there are no exact numbers, he said. However, there are estimates, as the Health Ministry and the Israel Prison Service screen prisoners for the diseases; the illegals who have not been arrested are not screened.
“The reality is that we have tens of thousands of foreign workers here,” Ronny Gamzo, director of the Health Ministry, told Israel Radio. “Left untreated, their situation deteriorates until they require emergency medicine in hospitals. This is not smart and strains our health system.”
Well-over 60,000 Africans have illegally entered Israel since 2005, most of them from Eritrea and Sudan.
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich contributed to this report.