South Korean HIV/AIDS Cases ‘Still Low,’ But Country Faces Epidemic if Education Campaigns Not Implemented
Although the number of South Koreans with HIV/AIDS is "still low" compared to other Asian countries, HIV rates in South Korea are increasing and will continue to rise if broad education campaigns are not put in place, South Korean officials say, the Korea Herald reports. The South Korean National Institute of Health recently released its latest statistics on HIV in the country. The findings include the following:
- In the first nine months of 2001, the number of new AIDS cases in the country reached 235, a 43% increase from the 164 cases reported over the same period last year.
- The total number of HIV/AIDS cases in South Korea has reached 1,515. Of these cases, 1,326 are men and 189 are women.
- Sixty-four percent of South Koreans with HIV/AIDS are in their 20s and 30s.
- People over the age of 60 accounted for 21 HIV/AIDS cases in the country, a 54% increase over the 10 cases reported last year in this age group.
- Approximately 97% of HIV-positive South Koreans contracted the virus through unprotected sex.
Preventing a Crisis
Lee said that if South Korea does not act to control the spread of HIV in the country, "it could escalate to the level of crisis in Thailand in no time." Since the survey statistics include only reported AIDS cases, the country's AIDS situation "could be more serious." He added, "At the current rate the disease is spreading in South Korea, it is fair to say that this country is on the brink of facing an AIDS epidemic." Health officials say that an education campaign is needed to help stop the spread of HIV. An NIH spokesperson said, "Continuous publicity and awareness programs about the disease, offered at schools, community centers and through the media, are crucial in preventing HIV/AIDS from spreading and becoming an epidemic in Korea" (Korea Herald, 10/23).