Hong Kong could see 35 per cent surge in HIV cases by 2021, report says

Advisory Council on AIDS expresses particular concern about vulnerability of those aged below 30 because of drug abuse, group sex and use of apps to find partners

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 May, 2017, 6:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 May, 2017, 9:06pm

The number of Hongkongers living with HIV is expected to surge by 35 per cent in the coming four years, with 74 per cent of infections taking place among men who have sex with men, according to the latest report by the government’s Advisory Council on AIDS.

The report forecasts that there could be 2,800 infected people by 2021.

HIV cases in Hong Kong hit record high, with more younger men infected

Young men aged below 30 are particularly vulnerable to the deadly disease because of drug abuse, group sex and the common use of instant messaging apps to find sex partners, according to the report.

The council, formed in 1994, suggested that Hong Kong should work out a strategy seeking to persuade over 70 per cent of men having sex with men to always use condoms by 2020 – which the report said would stabilise the epidemic. It said the current rate was around 60 per cent.

“There are non-government organisations reaching out to young men on the internet constantly,” council secretary Dr Kenny Chan Chi-wai said.

“They use the apps or talk to them in chat rooms to remind them to employ safe sex.”

In the council’s fifth report released on Monday, a series of targets was set for the coming five years to tackle HIV. They include getting 90 per cent of the population to be able to access prevention services and getting 90 per cent of people living with HIV to know about their status.

It also wants to push mother-to-child transmission rates down to zero.

Men who have sex with men are identified as a primary target population for action, including encouraging condom use and annual HIV testing, as well as tackling drug abuse.

Among this group, a significant 20 per cent dropped out of treatment due to its side effects or emotional problems, Chan said.

Men aged 20 to 29 saw the fastest increase in infection rates. Men aged 20 or below face a similar problem.

Extra counselling sessions prompt more Hong Kong HIV patients to take medicine on time

“New cases reported among young men are going up particularly sharply. This is very worrying,” council chairwoman Dr Susan Fan Yun-sun said.

“Also, among those men who have sex with men and the transgender population, around 10 per cent have drug abuse problems, which affects condom use and safe sex,” she said.

The report also pointed to late diagnosis and care issues among ethnic minorities due to linguistic and cultural differences.

But gay rights groups said the government should first guarantee the rights of gay and transgender people and create an environment without discrimination.

Lobby groups Rainbow of Hong Kong, Midnight Blue and A-Backup said in a joint statement that the most effective way to tackle HIV was to improve gay rights and eliminate discrimination.