Hong Kong sees record rise in HIV infections in third quarter

Department of Health reports 'worrisome' rise to highest quarterly total since 1984

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2012, 10:27am

The city saw a record number of new HIV infections in the three months to the end of September.

Of the cases for which a cause was established, most were the result of men having sex with other men, the Department of Health said.

The number of infections in the quarter was 140, the highest quarterly figure since 1984. That exceeded the 131 new cases in the previous quarter, also a record.

"The increase is worrisome," said Dr Wong Ka-hing, a consultant at the department's Centre for Health Protection. He said he hoped that with more homosexuals in the city openly declaring they were gay - including the recent coming out of lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen and singer Denise Ho Wan-sze - better awareness of HIV/Aids prevention could be promoted.

"According to the data, the homosexual group remains the group with the highest risk of contracting the HIV virus," Wong said.

Of the newly infected, 65 - or 46 per cent - were reported to have contracted HIV through homosexual sex, while 28 per cent got the virus from heterosexual sex. Two of the victims said they were bisexual and one reported injecting drugs. The method of transmission for the remaining 44 was undetermined due to inadequate information. Of the 140 cases, 112 were in males.

It was the third quarter in a row to see a rise in new infections. The last three months of last year saw 121 new cases, and the first quarter of this year saw 122.

Previous spikes were seen in the third quarter of 2009, with 123 new cases, and in the third quarter of 2007, with 125.

"The increasing tendency matches the trend we have observed in other affluent cities in Asia and the US, where the number of infections among men who have sex with men has been on the increase in recent years," Wong said. "We expect the numbers will continue to rise."

The number of reported cases of HIV infection since 1984 has now reached 5,663.

Without treatment, about half the infected people will develop Aids within 10 years.