THERE was silence at the other end of the line before the confession: a young homosexual had just had casual sex in a public toilet with a stranger and did not wear a condom. He wanted to know if he should be worried. Calls like this are fielded with alarming frequency by Horizons, a gay support group. Almost half of the 150 hotline calls received monthly are from ''closet'' gays who, despite the publicity campaigns and educational programmes, still have not got the message and are dangerously careless in their sexual practices. With the Hong Kong AIDS Week starting today and the sixth World AIDS Day on Wednesday, those responsible for educating the public have to ask themselves what they have done to stem the flow of ignorance surrounding the killer disease. Despite all the noise and activity, the number of people being infected with HIV in Hong Kong continues to escalate: last month the figure reached an all-time high of 403 - 91 of whom have full-blown AIDS. But those are only the official figures. There could be thousands more who have the virus and do not know it, putting their sexual partners at risk. The territory's first comprehensive AIDS survey, released in April, showed more than half a million people in Hong Kong were highly vulnerable to HIV infection. Another survey this year revealed only three per cent regarded AIDS as a serious problem. This was in sharp contrast to other Asian countries where between 19 and 29 per cent described the disease as serious. Efforts to educate Hong Kong people on AIDS prevention have been hampered in the past by personality and political conflicts between groups like AIDS Concern and the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation. The two groups engaged in a slanging match in June, with AIDS Concern accusing the foundation of being ''grossly'' unprofessional and unethical. At the centre of the row was an AIDS Foundation project - a $3 million feature film. The bone of contention was the way in which two producers approached AIDS Concern requesting meetings with AIDS patients or HIV carriers. The voluntary organisation said it was worried the patients and HIV carriers would be used for self-promotional activities. The AIDS Foundation hit back saying it was a case of ''paranoia'' and professional jealousy on the part of AIDS Concern. Three months earlier, the Sunday Morning Post revealed the AIDS Foundation had lost at least $1 million after dabbling in high-risk foreign currency. Criticism was widespread with AIDS Concern saying the foundation had wasted money which was meant to save people's lives. Legislator Dr Leong Che-hung, who took over the AIDS Foundation reins in September, said he was looking forward to the various organisations working together and ''plotting a new course in our fight against AIDS and promoting a better society for the inflicted''. But he also launched a stinging attack on the relevant bodies for a lack of policy co-ordination and said anti-AIDS campaigns had failed to address the problem by reinforcing fear rather than generating an understanding towards sufferers. ''These bodies have been working overtime. But their efforts have not paid off - overlapping in some areas while leaving gaps unfilled. ''We need a clear-cut policy direction, proper co-ordination, a concrete work schedule and a sensible division of work among Government and various voluntary organisations,'' Dr Leong said. ''We don't have another 10 years to spend to save those infected.'' These two groups, along with the Government's AIDS unit, are trying to set aside their differences. Lisa Ross, of AIDS Concern, said: ''We have been working much more closely with the AIDS Foundation in terms of information and presentations to schools, groups and churches. But we still have very different strengths as organisations. ''They have the governmental and social connections, which is important, while we work with the community through volunteers.'' Despite their background squabbles, there has been important progress. Last November, former dentist and stand-up comic Mike Sinclair announced he had contracted HIV through a homosexual relationship, and was commended for putting a human face on the dreaded disease, talking candidly about the pain, fears and frustration. Most importantly, he warned people to be careful. ''Don't let what happened to me, happen to you.'' But many people were not listening. And these are the ones who have to be educated. ''The gay community still needs a lot of education,'' said Daniel Kong, publicity co-ordinator for Horizons. ''There are many new entrants in the gay community, and their attitude is that AIDS is almost non-existent. ''Horizons receives lots of calls from people who talk about their sexual practices, but a number of them are not aware of the dangers and say they still have sex without protection''. Mr Kong said organisations like AIDS Concern and the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation tend to target their publicity campaigns more towards the general public than the gay community. ''There are about 100,000 gays in Hong Kong, so maybe the numbers are too big for the AIDS groups to reach. We are planning a survey within the homosexual community about safe sex practices which will tell us more, but the way it looks now, there has notbeen enough education,'' he said.