HIV infections in Hong Kong have reached their highest ever levels. Four hundred and thirty-five new cases of HIV were recorded last year.
That's 5 percent more than in 2007 and the highest number of new cases since record keeping began in 1984, Department of Health announced yesterday.
Most of the 435 new infections were the result of sexual contact. Among those, 145 resulted from homosexual or bisexual partnerships and 131 from heterosexual contact.
Of the remaining new cases of HIV, 40 resulted from intravenous drug use and three were cases of blood infusion.
The causes of the remaining infections are unknown.
Wong Kah-hing, a consultant for the Centre for Health Protection's special preventive program, said sexual transmission continued to be the major cause in the spread of HIV in Hong Kong.
He urged those who do not practice safe sex to take an HIV test and start using condoms, China Daily reported.
"They should use a condom for safer sex to reduce the risk of contracting HIV," he said.
Department of Health figures showed that during the fourth quarter of 2008, 106 people tested positive for HIV.
The cumulative total of reported HIV infections in Hong Kong since 1984 is 4,047.
HIV is the viral infection that is at the root of AIDS. About half of HIV-infected people progress to AIDS within 10 years if the condition is not treated.
Loretta Wong, chief executive of AIDS Concern, an organization that provides AIDS prevention services said the high rate of HIV infection last year is a warning that AIDS prevention efforts in the past few years have proven insufficient.
Another reason for the increased number is that more people took the HIV test over the past year, she said.
She noted that the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS is still not enough among the gay or heterosexual populations of Hong Kong.
She said about 60 percent of the gay population used condoms regularly.
"They know they should use a condom but they are willing to take risks when a condom is not available at hand," she said.
To reduce the number of HIV infections, she said social work organizations should increase AIDS prevention services.
This, she said, would require more government funding to make the services more stable and sustainable.
Getting funds is especially difficult in the current economic downturn so government help is really important for services working to prevent the spread of AIDS.