Seventy-eight people tested positive for HIV and 18 others developed Aids in the September quarter, a record for a quarter since checks began in 1984. Dr Low Hon-kei, senior medical officer of the Department of Health, predicted the number of HIV cases this year could top the record 213 cases reported last year and also in 1999. 'If you look at the first three quarters of the year, it has increased [faster] compared with the previous years. This [the year's total so far of 186] obviously is worrying to all health care professionals,' Dr Low said. 'You can see there will be more reported cases this year but whether there is going to be an increasing trend, I think it is still too early to say,' he said. A department spokesman said the record numbers of HIV and Aids cases from July to September could be due to more people coming forward for testing. Of the 78 new HIV cases, 57 were men. Seven out of 10 are Chinese. Sex remains the main route of transmission, with 42 infected through heterosexual sex and 18 through homosexual sex. Four cases involved intravenous drug users and a baby was infected with the virus from its mother. The chief executive of Aids Concern, Graham Smith, said the way the government surveillance system operated made it difficult to make generalisations about the progression of the disease. Still, with 18 gay and bisexual men newly diagnosed in the third quarter, it reflected the poor promotion of safer sex practices in the SAR, Mr Smith said. He said Aids Concern found it difficult to get funding to promote condom use among sex industry workers. Four charitable trusts had rejected its request 'because they consider it to be promoting sex'. 'Hong Kong needs to tone down its conservatism and begin addressing issues of the sex industry in a pragmatic way,' he said. Education and prevention work should be stepped up among other vulnerable groups, such as cross-border travellers, gay men and drug users.