Many of the city's 220,000 foreign domestic helpers may be putting their health at risk because of their poor language skills and a preference for self-medication, a leading health advocate says. Elijah Fung, manager of St John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre, said most of the women - especially those from Indonesia - were educated only to primary or junior-secondary level. 'When they come to Hong Kong they have little knowledge of health,' she says. 'A majority of Indonesians have very limited English and just some Cantonese. In the process, they have difficulty in accessing health information.' Filipinos had an advantage because they could speak English and had the support of relatives and friends who also worked in Hong Kong, she said. But they also hesitated to seek medical assistance. Most of the migrant workers shared the belief that medicines from home were better than those prescribed by doctors in Hong Kong. This led to self-medication, which could harm the women. 'Even though they feel sick, some of the migrants do not want to see a doctor because they do not want to be seen as unfit for the job. They are afraid of being dismissed,' she said. Instead, they resorted to drugs and medicines from friends and relatives or bought them over the counter. Ms Fung said her observation was based on health seminars and informal talks her group had been conducting for thousands of Indonesians and Filipinos since 2003. About 118,000 Filipinos and 97,000 Indonesians work in Hong Kong as domestic helpers. The last in the health series, with gynaecologist Sally Ferguson and social worker Kevin She, will be held on February 11 at Li Hall, in Battery Path, Central. Talks on HIV/Aids and common genital infections will be interspersed with cultural performances. About 150 women are expected to attend. Ms Fung suggested that the Hospital Authority provide full-time interpreters at all public hospitals and clinics. A designated clinic for foreign domestic helpers might also be useful, she added. The Hospital Authority said 'in general' there were interpreters for all sorts of patients who were not Cantonese speakers. 'But patients need to notify us beforehand if they need one,' a spokesman said. The interpreters are based at accident and emergency departments at the 15 hospitals.