Screening of undocumented migrants or refugees for hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections has been offered free of charge and free from bureaucratic procedures since 2012 at four primary-level clinical centres in Naples and Caserta, Italy.
Of 926 undocumented migrants and refugees visiting one of the primary-level clinical centres from January 2012 to June 2013, 882 (95%) were screened for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), total hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc) and antibodies against HCV and HIV.
Of the 882 individuals enrolled, 78 (9%) were HBsAg positive, 35 (4%) anti-HCV positive and 11 (1%) anti-HIV positive (single infections); seven (1%) had more than one infection (three were HBsAg positive). Of the 801 HBsAg-negative patients, 373 (47%) were anti-HBc positive.
The HBsAg-positivity rate was high (14%; 62/444) in individuals from sub-Saharan Africa and intermediate in those from eastern Europe (6%; 12/198), northern Africa (2%; 2/80) and Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (the ‘India-Pakistan area’) (3%; 4/126).
Anti-HCV was detected in 9/126 (7%) individuals originating from the India-Pakistan area, in 12/198 (6%) from eastern Europe, in 17/444 (4%) from sub-Saharan and in 2/80 (2%) from northern Africa.
The HBV, HCV and HIV infections in the undocumented migrants and refugees screened serve as a reminder to the Italian healthcare authorities to carry out extensive screening and educational programmes for these populations.