Vital to get HIV tested early: Khor

SINGAPORE - Even as the prevalence of HIV/Aids in Singapore remains low, it is still crucial to detect and treat infections early, said Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor Sunday as the world marked World Aids Day.

As of June, about 40 per cent of those newly diagnosed with HIV/Aids this year already had late-stage infection. While this was lower than the 50per cent recorded in previous years, Dr Khor wrote in the Health Ministry's "Health Matters" blog that it was still "a significant proportion which we must strive to reduce".

Regular HIV testing is an important way in which to prevent late detections, she wrote, especially for those with multiple sexual partners or who take part in high-risk sexual behaviour.

By diagnosing HIV/Aids early, sufferers can seek treatment earlier and live longer, healthier lives, she added. They would also be able to take measures to protect their partners from infection.

Dr Khor also emphasised the need to debunk misconceptions about HIV/Aids and "reduce discrimination". These were factors that contributed to delayed testing and detection of HIV, she wrote.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids), is primarily transmitted through sexual intercourse. In 2009, about 0.1 per cent of Singapore's adult population aged 15 to 49 had the disease, compared with 0.5 per cent in Malaysia and 0.6 per cent in the United States.

As of October, 378 people had been diagnosed with HIV/Aids this year, leading the Ministry of Health to anticipate that the total would be similar to last year's 469.

"But we cannot afford to be complacent," wrote Dr Khor. "Every case is one case too many as the disease is preventable." Using condoms during sexual intercourse, staying monogamous and avoiding sex with sex workers are ways to reduce HIV infection risk, she added.

Since 1985, a total of 6,153 people have been diagnosed with the disease in Singapore.

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