29 April 2008
Press release by the Ministry of Health
Characteristics of new cases of HIV infection reported in 2007
1. In 2007, another 422 Singapore residents were newly reported with HIV infection. About 93% of the new cases detected were males.This brings the total number of HIV infected Singaporeans to 3,482 as of end 2007 (Table 1). As at 31 Dec 2007, 1,534 persons are asymptomatic carriers, 804 had AIDS-related illnesses and 1,144 have died.
2. As in previous years,sexual transmission was the main mode of HIV transmission. Of the 422 cases reported in 2007, 95% were infected through sex. Of these, nearly two-thirds (64%) occurred via heterosexual sex. The number of cases infected via intravenous drug use had halved from 14 cases in 2006 to 7 cases in 2007. There was one case infected through blood transfusion overseas.
3. More than half (57%) of all new cases reported in 2007 were aged between 30 to 49 years of age. About one-eighth of the cases were aged between 20 to 29 years of age.
4. In 2007, more than half (53%) of the new cases already had late-stage HIV infectionwhen they were diagnosed. This was similar to the pattern in previous years. There is thus an urgent need for persons who engage in high risk behaviour such as unprotected casual sex, sex with prostitutes, and intravenous drug abuse to go for regular HIV testing.
5. Most (73%) of the new cases in 2007 had their HIV infection detected when HIV testing was done in the course of some form of medical care. Only 13% were detected as a result of voluntary HIV screening. The rest were detected through contact tracing and other screening. When differentiated by sexual orientation, a higher proportion of homosexuals had their HIV infection detected via voluntary screening compared to heterosexuals (29% vs 5%).
Preventing HIV infection
6. The most effective way to prevent HIV infection is to remain faithful to one’s spouse/partner and to avoid casual sex and sex with prostitutes. A HIV-infected person looks and feels normal during the early stage of the infection. It is therefore not possible to tell if a person is infected or not by looking at his/her appearance.
7. Persons who have unprotected sex while engaging in high-risk behaviour have a higher risk of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI). In 2007, a total of 7,755 cases of STI were reported among Singapore residents. Persons engaging in high-risk sexual behaviour, such as having multiple sexual partners, engaging in casual sex or sex with prostitutes, are strongly advised to use condoms to reduce their risk of HIV infection. Condoms should be used consistently and correctly during every sexual encounter. They should also go for HIV testing regularly so that the disease is detected and treated as early as possible. HIV treatment can significantly delay the onset of AIDS and reduce the risk of death.
8. It is an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act for persons who know that they are infected with HIV not to inform their sex partners of their HIV status before sexual intercourse. When the Infectious Diseases (Amendment) Act 2008 comes into force, a person who has reason to believe that he has, or has been exposed to a significant risk of contracting, HIV/AIDS must take reasonable precautions to protect his sexual partner, such as by using condoms, even if he is ignorant of his HIV positive status. Alternatively, he can go for a HIV test to confirm that he is HIV-negative. Otherwise, he must inform his partner of the risk of contracting HIV from him, leaving the partner to voluntarily accept the risk, if he or she so wishes.
9. HIV testing is available in most medical clinics. The identities of persons who come forward for testing and those who are found to be HIV positive will be kept strictly confidential. Anonymous testing services are also available.
10. AIDS is not transmitted through normal day-to-day contact with a HIV infected person at home, in school or at the workplace. You cannot get AIDS from coughs, sneezes, shaking hands, hugging, sharing of food and cutlery, sharing of toilets, etc. More information about HIV and AIDS can be found at the HPB website at www.hpb.gov.sg/aids.