Number of HIV infections set to become highest annual total since 1984

According to Hong Kong’s health authority, the number of new HIV infections in the city this year is set to be the highest annual total in the last 30 years.

There were 541 new HIV diagnoses between January and September of this year, whereas 2014 saw 499 cases recorded during the same period. During July to September this year, an additional 189 new cases were reported, which is the second-highest quarterly total since the reporting system was introduced in 1984.

Judging by the average statistics of the past nine months, Dr Wong Ka-hing told SCMP that it would be likely that the number of newly diagnosed cases of HIV for 2015 would surpass 2014’s total of 651.

Dr Wong, a consultant of the Special Preventive Programme of the Centre for Health Protection, said that “more than half” of the 189 new HIV infections recorded between July and September were contracted via homosexual intercourse, “mainly amongst young gay men”.

While Wong acknowledged that more extensive HIV testing could partly account for growing number of HIV cases, he emphasised that there is also a “genuine increase in the number of infections”.

Despite raised awareness and more preventive measures being carried out, unprotected sex was still one of the main risk factors for the rising number of HIV infections per year.

According to survey data obtained from patients, a “significant portion” of HIV-positive men had used drugs while engaging in sexual intercourse, which apparently increased the risk of unsafe sex.

The most common age group for reported infections was between 30 and 39, but more people between ages 20 and 29 have been diagnosed in recent years, and a small group of those under 20.

HIV is an abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus, an infection that weakens the immune system. A cure has not been discovered yet, but it can be treated to prevent developing AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency system).

The most recent figures brings Hong Kong’s total number of HIV cases to date to 7,534, the first of which was recorded in, you guessed it, 1984.

A local health concern group expressed concern after actor Charlie Sheen’s public disclosure about his HIV positive status caused some “unhelpful and misguided” reactions in Hong Kong.

AIDS Concern Hong Kong told SCMP that ignorance will worsen the stigma of HIV infected patients and emphasised that no one should have to publicly disclose their private health condition via media, and “certainly not as the result of blackmail”, as Sheen did.

Photo: Flickr

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