Single male immigrants who are newly arrived in Italy, speak little Italian and have a low level of education are most at risk of being infected by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to a study carried out by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in conjunction with Italy's welfare ministry (now the ministry for labour, health and social policies) and presented at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City from 3-8 August.

This is because of a combination of factors including lack of awareness and involvement in high-risk behaviour including male prostitution, which exposes them to infection. Immigrant women are better informed than their male counterparts and less likely to engage in risky behaviour, the study found.

Other at-risk groups include young, second-generation immigrants who often struggle to integrate and enter into conflict with their families and society.

The IOM study was commissioned after it emerged that 70 per cent of people in Italy who learn they are HIV-positive only when they are diagnosed with AIDS are immigrants.

The IOM is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1951 to advance the understanding of migration issues and to encourage social and economic development through migration while protecting the human rights and dignity of migrants.