Under 20 and HIV-positive

First Published – 30 Jun 2014

More young patients as total number of new cases hits 422.

NINE youth — six of them males — between the ages of 10 and 19 were diagnosed as HIV positive last year, the most ever in a single year according to records dating back to 1985.

There were just two such cases the previous year, and four cases each in 2004 and 2005.

As expected, the number of new cases of HIV infection last year hit a record high of 422, up from the previous year’s 357 cases, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH).

One case involved HIV being contracted through a blood transfusion overseas — the first such reported case in the past six years.

Another case was a baby infected by his mother during pregnancy. There were three cases reported in each of the previous three years.

Of the total number of new cases, 93 per cent were men. Sexual transmission accounted for 95 per cent of all new cases — nearly two thirds involved heterosexual sex.

About one-eighth of patients were between 20 and 29 years of age. Said Action for Aids: “More young persons are having sex and at a younger age. Programmes meant for young people must address all aspects of sexual behaviour, including homosexuality and condom use, otherwise those most at risk will not be helped.”

Only 13 per cent of new cases were detected through voluntary screening. Most were detected when HIV testing was done in the course of medical care. And more than half were already in the late stage of infection, signalling “an urgent need” for those in the high-risk groups — such as men who engage prostitutes — to go for regular testing, said the MOH.

With HIV rapid testing rolled out to many general practitioner clinics last year, the test is now available at most clinics.

Also, a pilot voluntary, opt-out HIV-testing scheme took off at Changi General Hospital in December, with all adult in-patients having to sign a form if they do not want to be tested for HIV.

When changes to the Infectious Diseases Act come into force, a person who “has reason to believe” he might have HIV/Aids — even if not tested — must inform his partner of the risk and take “reasonable precautions”, or face penalties.