Taipei HIV cases grow at 10% a year: Officials

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taipei is now seeing a 10-per cent annual growth rate in the number of HIV patients, the city's Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday, adding that most of the patients are infected through unprotected sex.

The DOH said that Taiwan has over 24,000 HIV patients, with 80 per cent of them aged between 20 and 39 years old. There is estimated to be 3,410 HIV patients in Taipei.

According to the DOH's statistics, 94 per cent of sufferers were infected through sexual activities, and 96 per cent are men.

Health officials said the second biggest cause of infection was through drug use, which accounted for 3.91 per cent of cases.

Last year, 2,224 people became infected with HIV, and over 300 of these cases were in Taipei, DOH official Chu Yu-ju said.

Possible reasons for this could be that urban areas have a wider range of nightlife activities, which may be connected with a rise in drug use and related HIV cases, the DOH said.

Thirty-nine per cent of those with HIV in the capital are aged between 20 and 39, Chu said, adding that patients between 30 and 39 account for 35.4 per cent.

This shows that the average age of patients infected with HIV is decreasing, Chu said.

Wang Teng-he, a doctor with the Taipei Hospital Zhongxiao Branch's Department of Infectious Disease, said the government should educate young people to have safe sex by using condoms and not changing sexual partners too often.

Some patients show symptoms after becoming infected by HIV virus in six months, but in some cases the disease may not become apparent until up to seven or even 10 years after contracting it.

Wang added that a HIV patient's monthly medication expense is at least NT$20,000 (S$819).