Hong Kong HIV cases reach second highest in decades
Increasing numbers due to awareness and 'genuine rise in infections'
The city recorded 173 new HIV infections in the first quarter of this year - the second-highest total reported in a single quarter in more than three decades.
The top quarterly statistic, of 195 cases, was posted between July and September last year.
Over the past three years, new cases recorded from January to March increased steadily, from 139 in 2013, to 154 in 2014. This year's 173 total is 21 cases more than the fourth quarter of last year.
Dr Wong Ka-hing, consultant in the special preventive programme at the Centre for Health Protection, said the increasing numbers could be due to greater awareness among vulnerable groups.
About 60 per cent of gay men who responded to a survey last year had taken HIV tests in the previous year. Wong said: "One factor [of the higher statistics] could be an increase in HIV testing of the community [of men who have sex with men].
"There is increased coverage of testing. We also believe there is a genuine increase in the number of infections."
HIV is the virus that can eventually lead to Aids.
The latest first-quarter figures brought the total number of reported HIV infections to 7,166 since 1984, when the reporting system started.
Men made up most of the latest reported infections, accounting for 145, or 83.8 per cent, of the 173 cases. The youngest case involved a 17-year-old boy.
Altogether eight males aged between 17 and 19 years old, were infected, a new record for the 10-to-19 age group in a single quarter. Five of them contracted HIV through homosexual or bisexual contact. Wong said HIV had been detected in more young men, with 51 new cases in the 20-to-29 age group.
Sexual contact remained the most common route of transmission, accounting for 73.4 per cent of the total number of cases.
More than half of the new cases, or 55.5 per cent, became infected through homosexual or bisexual contact.
Meanwhile, 31 patients were found to have developed Aids in the first quarter, bringing the city's total to 1,576 since 1985. An HIV carrier can take up to 10 years to develop Aids.
Aids Concern highlighted unprotected sex as the main reason for transmission. The NGO found in a study conducted from April last year to March this year that 41 per cent of gay men did not use condoms every time during sex.