CNA: Number of new HIV cases hit record high of 422 in 2007 (April 29)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Number of new HIV cases hit record high of 422 in 2007
By Dominique Loh, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 29 April 2008 1839 hrs

SINGAPORE: Latest figures from the Ministry of Health (MOH) showed 422 new cases of HIV infection were detected in Singapore in 2007, the highest in a single year since 1985. MOH added that 93 per cent of the cases were men.

This brings the total number of reported cases as of end-2007 to 3,482. Out of these cases, 1,534 are carriers showing no symptoms, while 804 have AIDS-related illnesses and 1,144 have died.

MOH said sexual transmission remains the main mode of HIV infection resulting in 95 per cent of the new cases. Out of the 422 new cases, 255 were infected during heterosexual sex. Meanwhile, 130 of them caught HIV through homosexual activity, a 38 per cent rise compared to 2006.

One reason for the increase in this group could be due to more screening.

29 per cent of homosexuals had their HIV detected during voluntary screening compared to just 5 per cent of heterosexuals. Action for Aids said this is a result of greater awareness arising from more intensive and targeted campaigns for men who have sex with men.

Meanwhile, infection via intravenous drug use halved from 14 cases in 2006 to seven last year.

One case saw HIV being contracted through blood transfusion overseas and is the first such reported case in the past six years.

57 per cent of all new cases reported in 2007 were Singapore citizens and permanent residents between 30 and 49 years of age. About one-eighth of the cases were between 20 and 29 years of age.

Ten people aged under 20 were diagnosed HIV positive. Of these, one was a baby infected by his mother during pregnancy.

Action for Aids said: "More young persons are having sex and at a younger age. Programmes meant for young people must address all aspects of sexual behaviour, including homosexuality and condom use, otherwise those most at risk will not be helped."

According to the ministry, 53 per cent of the new cases already had late stage HIV infection when they were diagnosed.

Only 13 per cent of new cases were detected through voluntary screening, while most had their HIV status detected while they were undergoing some form of medical care.

In its annual HIV/AIDS update, the health ministry urged those engaging in high-risk sexual behaviour to use condoms properly and go for HIV testing regularly. - CNA/vm