HIV/AIDS statistics in Hong Kong from 1984 to March 2017 (Source: Department of Health)
Hong Kong saw 202 new HIV infections in the first quarter of this year, a record-high for the past three decades.
The Department of Health announced that 52.4 percent, or 106, of the newly reported infection cases caught the virus through homosexual contact. The new infections drove the number of HIV carriers in the city to 8,612, the highest on record since the first case was reported in 1984.
In the meantime, new AIDS cases recorded in the first quarter were 17, taking the cumulative AIDS cases since 1984 to 1,783.
The 202 HIV infections in the first quarter – 180 males and 22 females – was a 21 percent rise on the final quarter of last year. Figures from the government showed HIV infections had tripled from 213 cases in 2001 to 692 last year.
Those infected with HIV will gradually develop clinical symptoms of AIDS after the virus destroys their immune system. The most common AIDS-defining illnesses for HIV carriers include Pneumocystis pneumonia and tuberculosis.
Without treatment, about half of the infected people will progress to AIDS in 10 years. HIV treatments can effectively prevent progression to AIDS, according to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP).
Over the years, men having sex with men has gradually become the primary source of HIV infection.
The government’s report showed infection through sexual contact between men had surpassed infections of men through heterosexual contact since 2005 and the trend has continued to widen over the years, reaching about 467 HIV infections stemming from men having sex with men last year.
William Wong Chi-wai, clinical associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care at the University of Hong Kong, who has 15 years’ experience dealing with sexual health and diseases, said back in the 1990s HIV prevention received a great deal of attention but the program faded when it failed to deliver the good results initially planned.
“Culture also has a role to play, with HIV less stigmatized and homosexual relationships more acceptable,” Wong said, adding that there was a reluctance to use condoms among homosexual groups.
In an annual survey by the CHP on HIV and AIDS response indicator last year, usage of condoms among men having sex with men had decreased about 6 percent to 59.9 percent.
Kenny Chan, the consultant (Special Preventive Programme) of the CHP, said: “Members of the public, particularly high-risk groups, should use a condom consistently and properly. Those with a history of unsafe sex should take an HIV antibody test early. People who inject drugs should avoid sharing needles with others and should receive methadone treatment as soon as possible.”