155 new cases of HIV infections in first half of this year: MOH

155 new cases of HIV infections in first half of this year: MOH

SINGAPORE - In the first six months of 2014, 155 new cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections were reported among Singapore residents, the Ministry of Health said in a media release today.

Of these new cases reported, 91 per cent are male, more than half aged 30 to 49 years and nearly half had late-stage HIV infection when they were diagnosed.

MOH said that sexual transmission remains the main mode of HIV transmission - almost all of the new cases acquired the infection through the sexual route.

Heterosexual transmission accounted for 49 per cent of these cases, while 41 per cent were from homosexual transmission and six per cent were from bisexual transmission.

About half of the newly reported cases had their HIV detected when HIV testing was performed in the course of medical care provision.

Another 31 per cent were detected during routine programmatic HIV screening, while just 12 per cent were detected as a result of voluntary HIV screening.

When differentiated by sexual transmission, a higher proportion of homosexuals (19 per cent) had their HIV infection detected via voluntary screening compared to heterosexuals (5 per cent).

MOH advised those engaging in high-risk sexual behaviour, such as having multiple sexual partners or engaging in casual or commercial sex, to use condoms to reduce their risk of infection.

Speaking at the 9 th Singapore AIDS Conference held today, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor noted that fewer than three in 10 of the heterosexual males who engaged in casual sex surveyed in 2013 reported consistent condom use.

"Almost three in every 10 of those who had casual sex also reported having had sex with a regular partner in the past six months, thereby posing a transmission risk to their partners or wives. Among males, the number of HIV cases through homosexual transmission has increased steadily over the past decade, surpassing heterosexual transmission since 2011," she said.

"Such findings point to how crucial it is for us to engage, educate and empower target groups to be aware of their risks and make informed choices to take charge of their own health," she said, adding that "the Government will maintain, and expand where feasible, the accessibility of HIV testing in Singapore".

While she urged high-risk groups to go for regular testing, she acknowledged that the fear of stigmatisation discourages those at risk from coming forward to be tested.

"To actively destigmatise HIV, each of us can do our part by spreading awareness and knowledge about HIV and its prevention," she said.

For individuals who would like to be tested but prefer not to be identified, there are currently 10 anonymous HIV test sites in Singapore. The full list of test sites is available on the HPB website at http://www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/6368.

yamadak@sph.com.sg

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