The Sun gets the TB-jeebies

'Migrants'AIDS epidemic threat', screeches one of today's headlines. The Sun says 'Shit yourself now!'. Actually, it doesn't. It says 'Killer plagues' and:
BRITAIN once wiped out TB and was gaining ground against AIDS.

Today we risk an explosion in both these killer diseases, thanks to infected immigrants.
Oh my god! The immigrants will kill us all in our sleep. In our beds! While we're alseep! They'll have sex with us while we don't notice, and . . . and . . . get around the BCG by doing something evil and foreign!

Now, down to brass tacks. The first article says:
The problem is set to hit crisis point when Romania and Bulgaria — nations with some of Europe’s highest Aids rates — join the EU next year.

Workers from these countries are expected to flood into Britain.

Almost 59,000 Brits have an HIV infection that leads to Aids. There were almost 8,000 new cases last year — and 70 per cent were in immigrants, mostly from Africa and Eastern Europe, the Health Protection Agency revealed. [Emphasis theirs].
You probably know what I'm going to say already, but I have to say it. The Health Protection Agency report doesn't say this at all. Surprised? Its chapter on HIV makes only two mentions of Eastern Europe - a chapter that reaches over 5,000 words. Although it does mention concern about an increase in Eastern Europe itself, it says absolutely nothing about how many people diagnosed with HIV in the UK were born in Eastern Europe, and doesn't offer a single statistic, as only 'Europe' is covered without being split (aside from a mention of 'Southern Europe' for instances of transmission by injection).

Of course, technically the paper hasn't lied, because the largest number are from Africa. Technically, it'd be accurate if I said they were 'mostly from Africa and a street in Chingford'. It wouldn't create an honest impression of the spread though, would it?

The Sun article also says that almost 8,000 new disgnoses of HIV were made last year, and over 70% of those were in people born overseas. That is also incredibly dishonest, if not a flat out lie. The report says:
Country of birth is reported for approximately 62% of cases, and of these cases, the number of non-UK born persons newly diagnosed with HIV rose from 1438 in 2000 to 2939 in 2004, a two fold increase (Figure 1). This represents around 40% of the total diagnoses in 2004 (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or 70% of diagnoses where country of birth was reported.
So it's only 40% - not over 70% - of the 'almost 8,000' figure that were definitely born overseas because only 62% report where they're born. We don't know where the other 38% are born at all. You could only conclude that over 70% of the total were born overseas if you used figures you can't possibly know because they aren't there - which is otherwise known as 'making the figures up'.

To be fair, the HPA press release does mention 70%, but it doesn't say over 70%. The Press Release also doesn't mention the total number of diagnoses, which the paper probably got from the report itself - so it's not as if it was never made aware of the real figures.

Also, it's a small point, but 2,939 is 40% of 7,347.5 - which is closer to 7,000 than 8,000. Most people interested in being accurate would represent that figure by saying 'over 7,000', not 'almost 8,000'.

After some irrelevant stuff from Migrationwatch, which I'm sure is as impartial as always, the article says:
The findings emerged from an HPA report compiled after health chiefs realised immigration had doubled from 300,000 in 1995 to 600,000 in 2004. Many fail to get help even TWO YEARS after entering the UK — despite showing symptoms of illness — creating the danger of an explosion in cases.
This paragraph is dishonest in two ways. Firstly, the first half of it is actually unconnected to the second, and says 'health chiefs' realised the level of immigration. Since when was anyone in the Department of Health responsible for calculating that figure? The second way it's dishonest is by juxtaposing this figure with the word 'many' in the second sentence to give the impression that this is a wickedly high number. Bear in mind that the article has already said:
Almost none of these foreigners seeks treatment and could be infecting the rest of the population, medics warned last night.
In fact, the report says:
Up to one third of cases were diagnosed two or more years after arrival in the UK.
So, around two thirds do seek treatment before the 'TWO YEARS' mentioned in the article. Most people would refer to two thirds as 'most'. Only in the Sun can it mean 'almost none'.

The next part of the article moves on to different chapters of the report. It's already got all its anti-Eastern European digs in at the beginning of the article, which is fortunate because if it mentioned them again it'd be laying itself open to complaints. The HPA report's chapter on tuberculosis says:
In Eastern Europe, despite an increase during the 1990s, tuberculosis incidence is now declining.
Another interesting bit that strangely goes unquoted says:
Non-UK born cases were in general less likely to have pulmonary (i.e.potentially infectious) disease than UK born cases though this varies with country of birth.
There are separate stats for Central and Eastern Europe for instances of TB. Eastern Europe is at the bottom of the table of foreign born individuals with tuberculosis, and accounts for 0.4% of those cases. Central Europe is higher up the table, accounting for 1.9% of cases. Combined, Central and Eastern Europe account for just 2.3% of all the cases where we know that the patient's country of origin is not the UK.

As for most people diagnosed with malaria being born overseas - well, duh. You catch malaria overseas. People most likely to visit risk areas are people who were born there. It's only included because it's a scary sounding disease.

Now on to the 'Sun says' bit:
Virulent new strains of tuberculosis are virtually incurable and easily spread.
There are drug resistant strains of TB. The HPA FAQ on TB says:
In the UK in 2005, only 1.1% of all TB isolates were classed as MDR [Multi-Drug Resistant], only a very small proportion of which may now be classed as XDR-TB [Extensively Drug Resistant] using the new definition. There is no suggestion that XDR-TB cases are increasing in the UK.
From the HPA report:
Resistance to anti-TB drugs in populations is a phenomenon that occurs primarily due to poorly managed TB care. Problems include incorrect drug prescribing practices by providers, poor quality drugs or erratic supply of drugs, and also patient non-adherence.
And this is worth repeating:
Non-UK born cases were in general less likely to have pulmonary (i.e.potentially infectious) disease than UK born cases though this varies with country of birth.
More from the Sun:
Many have arrived from Africa, but startling new figures show a sharp rise in cases from new EU states Bulgaria and Romania which have the highest rates in Europe.
The HPA report says nothing about a sharp rise in cases from Romania and Bulgaria. Neither word is mentioned in the report's chapter on TB. The report does mention that Central and Eastern Europe account for only 2.3% of non-UK born patients with TB. It also mentions that foreign born patiens make up 72% of the total number who specified a country (92% of the total). Which means that there are about 11 times more people born in the UK diagnosed with TB than Central and Eastern Europe. (Maybe more, maybe less, depending on where the 8% who didn't specify a country were born). And this is not because Brits are being infected by foreigners. The HPA's Tuberculosis Surveillance Update says:
While the rate of tuberculosis in the non-UK born population continues to increase, the overall rate in the UK born population has remained stable.
It's also worth pointing out another mention of Eastern Europe in the report:
In Eastern Europe, despite an increase during the 1990s, tuberculosis incidence is now declining.
Where did the mention of a 'sharp rise' come from?

The Sun then says:

The irony is that the latest increase comes as health chiefs launch an awareness campaign against sexually transmitted diseases.
Why is that ironic? We were just talking about TB which is not a sexually transmitted . . . oh wait. It's shifted back to HIV again. Quick reminder, the HPA report doesn't mention any figures for the number of Eastern Europeans in the UK diagnosed with HIV, let alone an increase.

And lastly, the Sun's kicker is:
Understandably, those facing death will do anything to seek health care — especially if it is free.
That old chestnut. Of course, this directly contradicts its own statement in the other article that almost none of the immigrants seek treatment. It also directly contradicts the HPA report:
Up to one third of cases were diagnosed two or more years after arrival in the UK. This is not consistent with the view sometimes expressed that migrants might come to the UK to seek treatment for HIV [...]
And from the HPA Press Release on TB:
However, only 22% of these non-UK born patients in 2005 arrived in the UK during the past two years. This suggests that the increase is not a result of a large number of individuals arriving recently with TB but rather a combination of TB disease developing in individuals who may have been infected for some time and new infections acquired in the UK, or as a result of travel to other countries where TB is common.
Ignored that too eh?

So, the Mail might say that Poles are just like Borat, but the Sun will pretend that reports about HIV and tuberculosis say Eastern Europeans are responsible for massive increases in the diseases when they're not. The charge that immigrants will spread disease is a very old familiar one, and accompanies pretty much every new phase of immigration, at least as far back as the charge that the Irish were spreading cholera in Victorian London.

Sure, there are high rates of HIV and TB in Eastern Europe and you might be worried about migrants spreading them. But is it best to inform your readers of those worries by pretending documents say things they don't and making points the reports actually directly contradict? Only if you're not interested in representing the truth.

Oh, hang on. This is the Sun. The only thing I should be surprised about is that they didn't go with a dodgy pun for the headline. Like I did. Hurrah!

*UPDATE* This story has since been removed from the Sun site for legal reasons- namely, that it was bollocks.