One in 10 migrant workers in Russia suffer from either tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS or hepatitis
Health Minister Mikhail Zurabov said a Soviet-era system of health checks for migrant workers, many of them from Central Asia and other parts of the former Soviet Union, had all but stopped working in the past years.
"We were shocked with the numbers," Zurabov was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency as saying.
"One in 10 of our working migrants suffer from one infectious disease or another: such as tuberculosis, AIDS and hepatitis," he said, citing results of a recent investigation.
Zurabov said the ministry was conducting checks among ordinary Russians, migrants and prisoners to establish the exact nature of the problem and work out ways of dealing with it.
About 10 million illegal migrants live in Russia. An influx of migrants since the 1990s has fuelled racism among Russians who often blame them for rising crime levels and other problems.
Russia's population is falling by 750,000 people a year due to poor diet and heavy drinking. Infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS are contributing to the trend which President Vladimir Putin wants to reverse.
Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and other infection levels have risen dramatically in Russia since the Soviet collapse, mainly among drug addicts, alcoholics and in the prison population.
Although HIV infection levels are not as high as in sub-Saharan Africa, health charities say the proportion of infected Russians has nearly doubled since 2001.
High disease rates are contributing to people's shrinking lifespan, experts say. Birth rates in Russia are improving but mortality levels remain high.
The average Russian man lives 58 years in 2005 -- about 17 years shorter than the average German man.
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